Monday, August 17, 2009

"So I won't put all the fires out."

"I've done made a deal with the devil. He said he's going to give me an air-conditioned place when I go down there, if I go there, so I won't put all the fires out."

Paul Neal "Red" Adair (June 18, 1915August 7, 2004) was a renowned American oil well firefighter. He became world famous as an innovator in the highly specialized and extremely hazardous profession of extinguishing and capping blazing, erupting oil wells, both land-based and offshore.

Adair was born in Houston, Texas, and attended Reagan High School. He began fighting oil well fires after returning from serving in a bomb disposal unit during World War II. Red started his career working for Myron Kinley, the "original" blowout/oil firefighting pioneer. He founded Red Adair Co., Inc., in 1959, and over his long career battled more than 2,000 land and offshore oil well, natural gas well, and similar spectacular fires. Red Adair gained global fame in 1962, when he tackled a fire at a gas field in the Sahara nicknamed the Devil's Cigarette Lighter, a 450-foot (137 m) pillar of flame. In 1977, he and his crew (including Asger "Boots" Hansen) contributed in mending the biggest oil well blowout ever to have occurred in the North Sea (and the 2nd largest offshore blowout worldwide, in terms of volume of crude oil spilled), more specifically at the Ekofisk Bravo platform, located in the Norwegian sector and operated by Phillips Petroleum Company (now ConocoPhillips). In 1978, Adair's top lieutenants Asger "Boots" Hansen and Ed "Coots" Matthews left to found competitor Boots & Coots International Well Control, Inc. In 1988, he helped put out the UK sector Piper Alpha oil platform fire. At age 75, Adair took part in extinguishing the oil well fires in Kuwait set by retreating Iraqi troops after the Gulf War in 1991.

Red Adair retired in 1993, and sold The Red Adair Service and Marine Company to Global Industries. His top employees (Brian Krause, Raymond Henry, Rich Hatteberg) left in 1994 and formed their own company, International Well Control (IWC). In 1997, IWC purchased the remnants of Boots and Coots and the company is now Boots & Coots/IWC.

The 1968 John Wayne movie Hellfighters was based upon the feats of Adair during the 1962 Sahara Desert fire. Adair was associated with a Rolex advertising campaign in the 1980's.

The History Channel's Modern Marvels episode on "Oil Well Firefighting" was one of Adair's last interviews prior to his 2004 death. The episode aired after Adair's death and was dedicated in his memory.

No comments: