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Famous Texans Red Adair

Private-sector fireman Paul Neal (Red) Adair was born June 18, 1915, in Houston. For decades his company, Red Adair Wild Well Control, has regularly been called to deal with major oil fires.

Adair grew up poor. He worked in a drugstore and for the railroad. For twenty years, beginning in 1939, he worked for Myron Kinley where he learned how to put out oil well fires. Near the end of the Second World War, he searched for unexploded shells in Japan and disarmed them.

In 1962, Adair's reputation as a fearless firefighter spread when he put out a fire in Algeria nicknamed the Devil's Cigarette Lighter. It had been burning for six months, fueled by 550 million cubic feet of gas a day.

In 1984, Adair's specialists put out a major offshore rig fire near Rio de Janeiro. His firefighters were the first to board the Occidental Petroleum Company's Piper Alpha oil rig in the North Sea after it was destroyed by an explosion in 1988. They were among the first to put out the devastating oil fires in Kuwait, started by Saddam Hussein's Iraqi military forces at the end of Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

Red Adair and his company inspired the 1968 action-adventure film about their exploits titled Hellfighters, which starred John Wayne as Adair.

Bibliography: Wendy Brabner, ed., Texas Monthly Texas Characters Datebook 1985 (Austin, Texas: Texas Monthly Press, 1984). "ADAIR, PAUL NEAL 'RED'," Biography.com <http://www.biography.com>