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Oil Fire For Sale

Photo Courtesy Campbell County Rockpile Museum, Wyoming

This is the Simpson No. 1 located in the Deadhorse Oil Field about 12 miles west of Gillette, Wyoming in October of 1967. The operator is a fella named Phillip Anschutz, from Denver,

who ultimately became quite wealthy drilling gas wells in Wyoming (Anschutz Ranch Field) before he bought into a movie studio in Hollywood and became a nationwide newspaper publisher.

This well blew out in a Muddy sandstone at around 9,200 feet, caught fire and burned the rig into a big heap of scrap metal. Halliburton lost a pump truck in the event and the Circle A Drlg. Co. tool pusher was burned a little bit, otherwise it was out in the middle of nowhere and not too big a deal. The blowout created a big stir in the area for leasing because initial flow rates were reported to be 500 barrels of oil per hour.

In 1967 the A Team of worldwide well control was, of course, The Red Adair Company in Houston. Red and Boots were on a job somewhere so Red sent Coots to Wyoming. Coots flew up there, scoped it out and ordered out all of his pumps and other stuff from Houston to start fighting the fire. In the photo, above, you can see Coots has two monitor stands up wind of the fire spraying water. You can barely make out Coots standing on a reserve pit levee to the right in the red coveralls. He drug shit away from the fire, jerked the BOP off of it and got the fire going straight up. The plan was to shoot this little thing out with a small glycerine shot but a strong norther came blowing in with 50 MPH winds and two big streams of water from HPHV Adair pumps knocked the fire out. Coots capped the well and put it on diverter to the reserve pits. Eventually a relief/replacement well was drilled to kill the blowout well. None of this was a particularly new to Coots, who by 1968 had been going on 30-40 of these things every year for the past 10 years.

What was sort of a big deal is that Anschutz was broke at the time and while Coots was up there fixin' the damn thing, Red was hollering for money Anschutz did not have.

As fate would have it the screenplay for a new movie called, The Hellfighters had been written and the film was cast. It starred John Wayne, Tim Hutton, Katherine Ross, Vera Miles and filming locations were being scouted out when this blowout in Wyoming occurred. So, Anschutz had the brilliant scheme he would sell his oil well fire to Hollywood for $100,000 and use the proceeds to pay Red. Anschutz got his money and Universal Studios ran a crew up there to Gillette to start filming. None of the scenes from the Simpson well were used in the movie but Adair got paid, the well got capped and Coots got to go back to Houston where it was a lot warmer than Wyoming in late November.

A key part of the Hellfighters film (multiple well fires in "Venezuela") was filmed outside of Casper months later with the entire cast and Red, Boots and Coots all in attendance to set up the fires and keep everything safe and secure during production.

Chance Buckman

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