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Red Adair, greatest oil well firefighter in history, is dead

He died last Saturday in Houston, at 89.

In 50 years of practicing his profession, he claimed, neither he nor any of his men ever suffered what he would consider a serious injury.

“I’ve got cut half in two, once, and blowed up a time or two, but nothing permanent,” he once told a reporter for The Globe and Mail of Toronto.

Members of his crew earned $7,000-$10,000 a day while on the job.

Not bad.


Though he knew more about oil well fires than any other person on the planet, he was helpless with more mundane tasks.

His wife, Kemmie, said he found mowing his lawn so daunting he left the remains of three stalled power mowers in his yard.

He and his employees all drove red Cadillacs.

His office was red, and for some time he had a secretary with red hair, like his, who wore red dresses.

During World War II, he served in a bomb demolition unit for three years.

“With bombs and fires,” he said, “you get only one mistake.”

He estimated he put out more than 2,000 fires.

Asked how he felt about them, he said, “It scares you. All the noise, the rattling and the shaking….”

However, there was a good side to it.

Fighting such fires, he said, afforded him “freedom from life insurance salesmen.”

I’m so excited writing this, as soon as I finish the post I’m heading over to amazon to buy the DVD of John Wayne playing Adair in the 1968 film, “Hellfighters.”

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  • Dirtgrain

    He reminds me of Manny (played by Jon Voight) in Runaway Train.