Red Adair: Biography
Learn about the life of Red Adair. Discover how his fire fighting team was fearless in the battle to control oil wells and blow outs.
Paul N. Adair was born in Houston, Texas 1915, into a large family that boasted five boys including Paul, and three girls. His father was a blacksmith. Little did the young Paul know that years later he would be involved in a job battling against the heat, even though they would be worlds apart.
Having been forced to drop out of high school in order to help support the large family, Adair threw himself into a wide and varied number of jobs. It wasn’t until 1936 that he finally settled into a job working for the Southern Pacific Railroad. He held this job down for two years and then moved on to be employed by Otis Pressure Control Company. This job concerned regulating the flow of oil from oil wells, and was Adair’s first experience of working with oil platforms. War in Europe dragged him away from this form of employment in 1945. He served in a bomb disposal unit for the rest of the war, and rose to the rank of staff sergeant.
Although such work was dangerous, Red Adair obviously thrived under the pressure. His first taste of working in hazardous circumstances struck a chord somewhere in his heart, and it would be something that he was involved in to some capacity for the rest of his working life.
Following the conclusion of the Second World War, he found work with Myron Kinley’s fire fighting company. Kinley was the first person to be able to confidently approach controlling oil well fires and blowouts, knowing his innovative techniques would serve him well.
After serving under Kinley for fourteen years, Adair left to form Red Adair Company, Incorporated. Using the experience he had gained in the previous years he led the company fighting oil well fires and blowouts. The company became extremely successful because they weren’t afraid to embrace and develop modern day techniques. Red Adair’s own research was instrumental in the improvement in effectiveness of semi-submersible fire fighting vessels. The company later changed its name to The Red Adair Service and Marine Company. In addition to continuing fire fighting duties they also began to sell or lease the equipment they had developed, which had soon gained a reputation of being ultra reliable. In 1993 Adair sold the company and Adair Enterprises was formed, dealing mainly in consultation.
In his long and distinguished career Red Adair was to achieve many great feats, all involving great bravery, tactical planning and skilful leadership. His team was the first to put out an underwater wild well, and also the first to cap an American well whilst it was still on fire. Famous fire fighting exploits include extinguishing the ‘Devil’s Cigarette lighter’ blaze in the Sahara, 1962, the offshore blaze at Bay Morehand, Louisiana, 1970, He also controlled the IXTOC#1 blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico in 1979, and put out the fire on the Piper Alpha oil platform in 1988.
Perhaps the most famous of Adair's fire fighting exploits was the extinguishing of one hundred and seventeen flaming oil wells in Kuwait, near the end of the Gulf War. The wells had been set alight by Saddam Hussein's men and the area, which was still basically an extremely dangerous war zone. Experts estimated it would take between three and five years to put all the fires out. Red Adair's team accomplished it in just nine months.
His work did not go unrecognized. He received letters of recognition from four different presidents, and numerous awards including the Outstanding Houstonian Award and The American Academy of Achievement Golden Plate Award.