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Heroes Under Fire

Can you name the firefighter who became a household name, pioneered modern-day techniques and equipment, and was even immortalized in a John Wayne film?  If you answered Red Adair, you’re right.

Born in Texas in 1915, Adair left school to work in the Texas oil fields.  In 1939, he joined Texas oil-fire expert Myron Kinley and worked with him for 14 years, learning how to fight oil well fires.  Later he formed the Red Adair Company.

Adair pioneered modern-day Wild Well Control techniques and equipment, and made a name for himself as the number one oil-well firefighter in the world.  He and his team averaged over 42 oil well fires and blowouts per year, inland and offshore, all over the world, completing over 1,000 jobs internationally.

In 1962 Adair battled a gas fire in Kuwait known as the Devil’s Cigarette Lighter.  Burning for six months, the fire shot up 450-foot flames, said to be visible by the Astronaut John Glen while orbiting the earth. Adair fought the fire with 500 tons of explosives and eventually capped the well.  Years later, his feat was celebrated in the film Hellfighters starring John Wayne.

The Piper Alpha offshore oil-drilling disaster in the North Sea in 1988 was another challenge.  Adair not only battled huge flames after an explosion on the platform but also had to fight off 80-mph winds and 70-foot waves.

In 1991 following the Gulf War with Iraq, Adair and his team extinguished 117 of the burning oil well fires ignited by Sadam Hussein’s troops retreating from Kuwait.  Adair had the fires extinguished in a record nine months.

For firefighters like Red Adair, knowing how to handle firefighting equipment is a part of the job.  And while you may never have to fight an oil well fire, know-how is part of your job too. Make sure you know where the fire extinguishers in your plant are located and know the right fire extinguisher to use for each class of fire. Remember, only trained employees should use fire extinguishers.  Don’t be a hero-the risks are too great.

Fire prevention is the best policy, so look out for hazards like these:

*Electrical fires can be caused by overloaded fuses, bad wiring, loose connections and sparks.

*Chemical fires are deadly.  Always check MDSs for fire prevention information.

*Flammable liquids like oil, gas and kerosene give off vapors that can travel long distances and ignite.

*Compressed gasses have flash points below room temperature.  Even small leaks can ignite.

*Clutter in the work area is a major cause of fires.  Good housekeeping is the smart prevention strategy.



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