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All it takes is one spark to ignite an explosive fire in an oil well. Fires are usually caused by a blowout, where the pressure within the oil well is greater than it is outside. The result can be devastating: cars 1,500 feet away have been known to melt, and sand turns to glass. It's an oil well firefighter's job to control the pressure in the oil well and staunch the fire before it can become catastrophic. It is a very dangerous job and requires the utmost dedication to safety.
In order to begin entry-level training as a firefighter, you must be at least 18 years old, have your high school diploma or its equivalent, have a valid driver's license, and be able to pass a drug screening. Applicants usually have earned basic emergency medical technician, or EMT, certification so they can provide medical attention to victims at the scene. Firefighter training lasts several weeks. Specialized training in oil well fires is available at facilities such as the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service.
Becoming an Oil Well Specialist
Most oil well fire specialists start by working for oil rigging companies in other capacities. After several years, they can be promoted to fire specialist. They may also join the staff of a privately run emergency response company. Because very few drilling companies hire women, in turn very few women become oil well fire specialists.
Oil well fires are extremely dangerous. Specialists attempt to correct the pressure imbalance that caused the blowout by pumping wet mud down the drilling hole. They wear specialized clothing and breathing gear, and carry metal shields to protect themselves from flares. In addition, they have to battle hydrogen sulphide, a poisonous gas that oil wells emit when under pressure. Fire specialists work tirelessly, around the clock, until the situation is under control. The work is hard, exhausting and physically taxing.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, firefighters in all settings averaged $48,270 a year in 2013. Firefighters who specialized in oil well fires averaged $46,000 a year in 2014, according to Simply Hired. How much you earn depends greatly upon the company you work for and how much experience you have. Firefighters earning in the top 90th percentile commanded $80,430 a year in 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- College Foundation of North Carolina: Oil Well Fire Specialist: What They Do
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013: Firefighters
- Simply Hired: Average Oil Well Firefighter Salary
- Texas A&M Engineering Extension Services: Industrial Firefighting and Emergency Response
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Firefighter