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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 August, 2004, 20:59 GMT 21:59 UK
Firefighter Red Adair dies at 89
The Piper Alpha oil rig on fire
Adair helped put out Piper Alpha
Paul "Red" Adair, whose exploits fighting oil well fires around the globe made him a household name, has died in Houston, Texas, aged 89.

His daughter Robyn told AP news agency that her father had died in hospital of natural causes on Saturday night.

Red Adair gained global fame in 1962, when he tackled a fire at a gas field in the Sahara - a feat later retold in the John Wayne film Hellfighters.

He also grabbed headlines quenching blazing Kuwaiti oil wells in 1991.

Red Adair epitomises everything you imagine a hero to be - he was a real-life action man who risked his life many a time to save lives
Geraldine, Scotland

And in 1988 he fought the explosion of the Piper Alpha platform in the North Sea which killed 167 men.

Born in Texas in 1915, Adair left school to work as a labourer, first on the railways and then in the oilfields.

In his 20s, he joined Myron Kinley, a famous Houston oil fire expert, and 14 years later set up his own Red Adair Company Inc to control oil well fires.

He perfected the technique of using explosives, mud and concrete to control and cap well fires.

Extreme conditions

In 1962 he fought a gas fire known as the Devil's Cigarette Lighter in the Sahara - a 450-foot (137m) pillar of flame.

I've done made a deal with the devil. He said he's going to give me an air-conditioned place when I go down there, if I go there, so I won't put all the fires out
Adair in 1991
In 1988, he had to battle 80mph (130km per hour) winds and 70-foot waves while battling the fire aboard the Piper Alpha oil platform.

And his expertise in 1991 putting out the blazing oil wells in Kuwait that had been set alight by retreating Iraqi forces was credited with preventing an environmental catastrophe. He took nine months to complete an operation that it had been estimated would take three to five years.

"Retire? I don't know what that word means," he told reporters at the time.

"As long as a man is able to work and he's productive out there and he feels good - keep at it. I've got too many of my friends that retired and went home and got on a rocking chair, and about a year and a half later, I'm always going to the cemetery."

Red Adair did finally retire in 1994.

He never seemed to show fear and in 1991 he joked the hereafter would be no different.

"I've done made a deal with the devil," Adair said, according to AP.

"He said he's going to give me an air-conditioned place when I go down there, if I go there, so I won't put all the fires out."

The BBC's David Chazan
"Red Adair was a Texan who made his name as the world's leading expert on oil well fires"

Red Adair: Your tributes
08 Aug 04  |  Have Your Say
Obituary: Red Adair
08 Aug 04  |  Americas

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