An adventure-loving Danish-American Asger “Boots” Hansen – born and raised in Houston – spent World War II aboard the submarine Nautilus. From there it was on to car racing, where he met famed oil-well firefighter, Red Adair. Learning the trade from Red, Boots and his friend and co-worker, “Coots” Matthews, were associates of Red’s for more than 20 years.
In late 1961, Boots and Coots were dispatched to Gassi Touil, Algeria, to cap off a well that sprang an enormous natural gas leak into one of the most famous oil well fires in history – the so-called “Devil’s Cigarette Lighter.” When John Glenn orbited the Earth in February 1962, he could see the glow from the blaze as he passed overhead. Adair soon joined the fight. Their actions in subduing this fire, an effort that took over five months, elevated Adair to “hero” status.
The threesome’s bravery in tackling oil fires inspired the 1968 movie “Hellfighters,” starring John Wayne.
In 1978, Boots and Coots went on their own to form one of the world’s premier oil-well control and emergency response companies, Boots & Coots International Well Control. The team was responsible for squelching one-third of the 700 Kuwaiti oil fires set by retreating Iraqi soldiers during the 1991 Gulf War.
A true pioneer in the business, Boots dedicated his life to battling the biggest and most dangerous oil fires and well blowouts around the world, saving lives in the process. Boots & Coots, now owned by Halliburton, is active in the Bakken today.