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A cargo ship is stuck under the part of the structure of the Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 27, 2024, after the ship hit the bridge in Baltimore, Md. (AP) A cargo ship is stuck under the part of the structure of the Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 27, 2024, after the ship hit the bridge in Baltimore, Md. (AP)

A cargo ship is stuck under the part of the structure of the Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 27, 2024, after the ship hit the bridge in Baltimore, Md. (AP)

Jeff Cercone
By Jeff Cercone March 29, 2024

Baltimore bridge accident, fire near Ohio bridge aren’t connected

If Your Time is short

  • A fire broke out at a production site of an Ohio landscape supply company in Valley View, close to the Interstate 480 bridge.

  • The company, Kurtz Bros. Inc., said in a statement that the fire was a spontaneous combustion that began in raw wood products at its site. Valley View’s fire chief said such fires are common, it was not suspicious,and it had no connection to what happened in Baltimore. 

  • The bridge, which is adjacent to the Kurt Bros. site, was not affected by the fire.

  • Here’s how PolitiFact chooses which statements to fact-check.

A fire broke out near a highway bridge in Ohio in the early morning March 26, not long after a massive cargo ship crashed into Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge.

Some social media users tried to connect the two events.

In a March 27 video shared on Instagram, a man pointed to a screenshot of an article about Baltimore and said, "How many of you heard about the bridge in Ohio from this morning?" 

The man then pointed to an article from WJW-TV in Cleveland, which reported that the fire broke out at a Valley View landscape supply company near the Interstate 480 bridge. The company said spontaneous combustion caused the fire

"Have you ever known a bridge to just spontaneously combust, the same exact day that a cargo ship … takes out another bridge in Maryland?" the man in the Instagram video said.

The Instagram post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

We found other social media posts sharing the same video, saying the bridge in Ohio was attacked or that the fire was suspicious, or connecting the two events.

The two events are not connected, and the man in the Instagram video overstated what happened in Ohio. 

(Instagram screenshot)

In Baltimore, the Dali, a fully loaded, massive container ship, lost power and steering capability, veering into the bridge about 1:30 a.m. local time. Six people are presumed dead and one of the nation’s busiest ports has remained closed ever since.

The I-480 bridge in Valley View neither spontaneously combusted, nor caught fire, Valley View’s fire chief and an Ohio Department of Transportation spokesperson said. No one was injured and the highway never closed.

The fire broke out about 2 a.m. local time at the Kurtz Bros. Inc., site near the bridge. Valley Valley View Fire Chief Kenneth Papesh said there was nothing suspicious about the fire and it had no connection to what happened in Baltimore nor was there any sign it was linked to terrorism. 

Maryland and federal officials have said there is no evidence the Baltimore bridge accident was intentional.

Brent Kovacs, an Ohio Department of Transportation spokesperson, said the I-480 bridge "was not affected by the fire." 

"The fire Tuesday was on the property next to the bridge. No state property was affected in the fire," Kovacs said.

Featured Fact-check

Kurtz Bros. said in a statement posted March 26 on Facebook that the fire broke out at its production facility in Valley View, a village in Cuyahoga County about 10 miles southeast of Cleveland.

The statement described a "spontaneous combustion situation with our raw wood products" at the company’s Valley View production facility. It said "these kinds of occurrences are not uncommon due to the nature of the materials," but they rarely "accelerate to the point they did today."

The location is one of Kurtz's largest production yards, where mulch, topsoil and compost products are produced and shipped, Kurtz Bros. spokesperson Traci Ward said in an email to PolitiFact.

The I-480 bridge piers do not sit on Kurtz’s property, but are adjacent, said Ward and Papesh.

Ward said the fire began in and was contained to a raw material/feed stockpile used in the production of the company’s mulch products.

"Over time, wood stored in large piles generates internal heat, and given the external temperature changes and accelerated wind speeds, those temperatures can rise enough to ignite, leading to typically much smaller fires," Ward said. "Rarely do they accelerate to the point they did."

Papesh said fires such as this are "a common, normal phenomenon that we deal with."

Papesh called the term "spontaneous combustion" a little inaccurate, but said when organic materials, such as wood products, decompose, the internal temperature of piles can heat to the point where it can cause combustion. He said the fire department has dealt with similar fires at the site several times in the last five months, and that wooden pallets catching fire accelerated this blaze.

"What happened was the pallets got going. That's what really caused the massive fire that you saw," Papesh said. 

Papesh said Kurtz Bros. had more product than it usually does at the site, which limited its ability to spread piles around, a tactic used to prevent such fires.

Footage from Cleveland’s WOIO-TV shows piles of wood products on fire or smoldering near the highway bridge. The bridge itself wasn’t on fire in the footage.

Mike Vielhaber, an overnight news photographer for WEWS-TV Cleveland, posted photos and video on X of the fire."

The National Fire Protection Association in a 2022 video explained that a heat-generating oxidation reaction can occur inside large mulch piles, leading to spontaneous combustion.

Wetting or rotating mulch piles can allow internal heat to dissipate and prevent them from catching fire, a National Fire Protection Association spokesperson told PolitiFact.

Our ruling

An Instagram post claimed the Baltimore bridge accident and a bridge fire in Ohio were connected. They are not, and the Ohio bridge didn’t catch fire. There was a fire at a landscape supply company on property close to the Interstate 480 bridge in Valley View, but the bridge itself was not affected.

The claim is False.

Our Sources

Instagram post, March 27, 2024 (archived)

Email interview, Traci Ward, Kurtz Bros. spokesperson, March 29, 2024

Phone interview, Kenneth Papesh, Valley View fire chief, March 29, 2024

Email interview, National Fire Protection Association spokesperson, March 28, 2024

Email interview, Brent Kovacs, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Transportation, March 28, 2024

Fox 8, WJW, VIDEO: Cause of massive flames under Valley View Bridge revealed, March 26, 2024

3WKYC Studios, Fire breaks out under I-480 bridge in Valley View: See video, March 26, 2024

19 News, WOIO, ‘Spontaneous combustion’ causes massive fire underneath Valley View Bridge, March 26, 2024

19 News, WOIO, Massive mulch fire underneath Valley View Bridge, March 26, 2024

Kurtz Bros., Inc, Facebook post with statement about fire, March 26, 2024

Kurtz Bros. Inc., Ensuring Safety First: A Response to the Recent Incident at Kurtz Bros. Facility, March 27, 2024

Valley View, About Valley View, accessed March 28, 2024

Google Maps, Kutz Bros., Inc. - Bridgeview, accessed March 28, 2024

Envista Forensics, The Dangers Associated with Landscaping Material Fires, June 29, 2022

Turfscape, Commercial Landscape Service Tip: Preventing Mulch Fire, accessed March 28, 2024

Safety Insurance, Preventing Mulch Fires, accessed March 28, 2024

National Fire Protection Association, Is Spontaneous Combustion Real?, April 14, 2022 

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Baltimore bridge accident, fire near Ohio bridge aren’t connected

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