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Red Adair fighting an oil field fire in the Elk Hills Oil Field on October 27, 1977
June 18, 1915|
|Died||August 7, 2004
Paul Neal "Red" Adair (June 18, 1915 – August 7, 2004) was an American oil well firefighter. He became notable as an innovator in the highly specialized and extremely hazardous profession of extinguishing and capping blazing, erupting oil well blowouts, both land-based and offshore.
Life and career
Adair was born in Houston, Texas, the son of an Irish blacksmith, and attended Reagan High School. He began fighting oil well fires after returning from serving in a bomb disposal unit during World War II. He started his career working for Myron Kinley, the "original" blowout/oil firefighting pioneer. He founded Red Adair Co., Inc., in 1959, and over the course of his career battled more than 2,000 land and offshore oil well, natural gas well, and similar spectacular fires. Adair gained global attention in 1962, when he tackled a fire at the Gassi Touil gas field in the Algerian Sahara nicknamed the Devil's Cigarette Lighter, a 450 foot (140 m) pillar of flame that burned from 12:00 PM November 13, 1961 to 9:30 AM on April 28, 1962. In December 1968, Adair sealed a large gas leak at an Australian gas and oil platform off Victoria's south-east coast.
In 1977, he and his crew (including Asger "Boots" Hansen) contributed to the capping of the biggest oil well blowout ever to have occurred in the North Sea (and at the time the largest offshore blowout worldwide, in terms of volume of crude oil spilled), at the Ekofisk Bravo platform, located in the Norwegian sector and operated by Phillips Petroleum Company (now ConocoPhillips). In 1978, Adair's top lieutenants Hansen and Ed "Coots" Matthews left to found competitor Boots & Coots International Well Control, Inc. In 1988, Adair was again in the North Sea where he helped to 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.
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).
Adair died in 2004, aged 89, survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.
- The 1968 John Wayne movie Hellfighters was loosely based upon the feats of Adair during the 1962 Sahara Desert fire.
- The History Channel's Modern Marvels episode on "Oil Well Firefighting" was one of Adair's last interviews prior to his death. The episode aired after Adair's death and was dedicated to his memory.
- Adair was associated with a Rolex and American Express advertising campaign in the 1980s.
- "Red Adair, Famed for Taming Oil Well Fires, Dies at 89". The New York Times. 9 August 2004. Retrieved 31 January 2012.
- "Oil well firefighter Red Adair dies". The Age. 10 August 2004. Retrieved 13 July 2011.
- Obituary: Red Adair, BBC News, August 8, 2004
- Obituary: Red Adair, The Guardian, August 9, 2004
- Official site of Red Adair
- BBC News Obituary: Red Adair
- Oil Rig Disasters / 5 Worst Offshore Blowouts, unknown, retrieved 5 April 2013
- "Boots, Coots, Roots" at Boots and Coots/IWC