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Myron M. Kinley (1898–1978) has been called the first, the dean, the grandfather and the original pioneer oil-well firefighter. He and his father Karl are often credited with being the first to use explosives to extinguish an oil-well fire in 1913 in a California, USA oil field. Myron formed the M.M. Kinley Company in 1923, specializing in controlling well blowouts and extinguishing well fires. During Kinley’s long career, he fought hundreds of oil-well fires throughout the world.

On 28 May 1929, after drilling to a depth of 1453 m, the No. 160 Romano-Americana well in Moreni, Romania had a blowout and caught fire. The derrick was destroyed and the 100 m-high flames could be seen in the city of Ploiesti over 50 km away. Attempts to extinguish the well were unsuccessful and the well burned for over 2 years. More than 100 workers were injured and 14 died in the process of trying to extinguish the fire. By the spring of 1931, the ‘Torch of Moreni’ had created a crater 76 m wide and 20 m deep. Newspapers covered the attempts to extinguish the fire and many of the photographs of the fire were used to create postcards.

Kinley first visited the No. 160 well in 1930, but was unable to convince the operators to allow him to try his firefighting methods. It took a second visit, a year later, before he was hired by the Romano-Americana Company, an affiliate of Standard Oil. A three-man crew consisting of Americans Kinley and Grady Chupp, and Romanian Costeca Luper battled the fire for 3 months. The fire was finally extinguished and Kinley was paid his $50 000 fee and he returned to the USA. American newspapers recounted his exploits and praised his heroism. Eighty-five years later, oil production facilities and producing wells surround the crater, and patches of carbonized ground attest to the intensity of the ‘Torch of Moreni’.

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