I was thinking the other day of Red Adair, the famed fighter of oil well fires. He was renown for his courage, ingenuity and cool demeanour when in the direst situations. His nickname of ‘Hellfighter’ as well-earned, and his name a byword in the industry. He was also a modest man of few words.
I well remember the first big oil-rig fire that established his reputation. He arrived in an old Lockheed C130, an aircraft famed for its ability to land almost anywhere. The props had not even ceased spinning when the nose opened and out came Red and his crew in a Jeep, laden with firefighting equipment, tools and explosives.
The Jeep shot straight down the ramp, across the field, and straight into the midst of the roaring fire. There was a lot of shouting and you could hear Red barking orders in loud monosyllabic sentences. In only a few moments the crew emerged from the flames and took cover behind any solid objects they could find just as a huge explosion rocked the air. When the smoke cleared, everyone could see that the wellhead had collapsed and the fire was extinguished.
The onlookers clapped and cheered, but Red modestly ignored the tumult, and signalled his crew to follow him. They all headed for the nearest bar where for over an hour they drank steadily without saying a word except to order yet another drink. Finally one of the crew commented to Red that they would be needing a new Jeep.
He thought about it for a moment, and said “Yep. Better get one with decent brakes this time…”