Jump to content

Red Adair

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Red Adair
Red Adair in 1964
Paul Neal Adair

(1915-06-18)June 18, 1915
Houston, Texas, U.S.
DiedAugust 7, 2004(2004-08-07) (aged 89)
Houston, Texas, U.S.[1][2]

Paul Neal "Red" Adair (June 18, 1915 – August 7, 2004)[3][4] was an American oil well firefighter. He became notable internationally as an innovator in the specialized and hazardous profession of extinguishing and capping oil well blowouts, both land-based and offshore.

Early life and education[edit]

Adair was born in Houston, Texas, the son of an Irish immigrant blacksmith and his wife.[5] He attended Reagan High School.

Military service and career[edit]

During World War II, Adair served with the US Army, in a bomb disposal unit. After the war ended, he started working in the oil industry. He started his career working for Myron Kinley, the "original" blowout/oil firefighting pioneer. They pioneered the technique of using a V-shaped charge of high explosives to snuff the fire by the blast. This was known as the Munroe effect, which Adair knew was used with bazookas and the atom bomb.

In 1959 he founded Red Adair Co. Inc. During the course of his career, Adair helped extinguish more than 2,000 land and offshore oil well, natural gas well, and similar spectacular fires. He gained global attention in 1962 when he fought 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 southeast coast.[2]

Adair fighting an oil field fire in the Elk Hills Oil Field in California on October 27, 1977.

In 1977, he and his crew, including Asger "Boots" Hansen and Manohar "Man" Dhumtara-Kejriwal, contributed to capping the biggest oil well blowout to have occurred in the North Sea. At the time this was the largest offshore blowout worldwide, in terms of volume of crude oil spilled.[6] This took place 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 a competitor company, Boots & Coots International Well Control Inc.

In 1988, Adair helped to extinguish the UK sector Piper Alpha oil platform fire in the North Sea. At age 75, Adair participated with 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.[7] His top employees (Brian Krause, Raymond Henry, Rich Hatteberg) left in 1994 and formed their own company, International Well Control (IWC).

Adair died in Houston in 2004 at the age of 89.[3] He is buried in a crypt at Forest Park Lawndale in Houston.[8]


He was survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.[9]


The roads around South Shore Harbour Marina in League City, Texas, where Red Adair kept his boat, were named after him.
  • The 1968 John Wayne movie Hellfighters was based loosely upon the feats of Adair during the 1962 fire in the Sahara.[9]
  • Adair received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement in 1980.[10]
  • The History Channel's Modern Marvels episode on "Oil Well Firefighting" was one of Adair's last interviews prior to his death. The episode was broadcast after Adair's death and was dedicated to his memory.
  • The Travel Channel's Mysteries at the Museum "Most Explosive" episode (2014) features a segment on Adair's success in 1961 in stopping the burning gas line in the Algerian Sahara Desert; it was nicknamed "The Devil's Cigarette Lighter".
  • He was a longtime member of Lakewood Yacht Club.[9]
  • In Season 2, Episode 6 of MacGyver (2016 TV series), Red Adair’s life, particularly the “Devil's Cigarette Lighter” incident, is shown to be an inspiration for character Jack Dalton and explains why he knows so much about oil well fires when the team is tasked with stopping one in Nigeria.


  1. ^ "Red Adair, Famed for Taming Oil Well Fires, Dies at 89". The New York Times. 9 August 2004. Retrieved 31 January 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Oil well firefighter Red Adair dies". The Age. 10 August 2004. Retrieved 13 July 2011.
  3. ^ a b Obituary: Red Adair, BBC News, August 8, 2004
  4. ^ Obituary: Red Adair, The Guardian, August 9, 2004
  5. ^ "Obituary: Red Adair". 8 August 2004 – via news.bbc.co.uk.
  6. ^ Oil Rig Disasters / 5 Worst Offshore Blowouts, unknown, archived from the original on 28 December 2014, retrieved 5 April 2013
  7. ^ ""Boots, Coots, Roots" at Boots and Coots/IWC". Archived from the original on 2014-07-14. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
  8. ^ Wilson, S. (2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. Academic & Nonfiction Books anthology. McFarland, Incorporated, Publishers. ISBN 978-1-4766-2599-7. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  9. ^ a b c Cherry, Mary Alys (October 5, 2016). "Famed firefighter Red Adair dies". Chron. Retrieved January 13, 2023.
  10. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". www.achievement.org. American Academy of Achievement.