A man who used to call Southwest Florida home, whose family still does, earned the nickname of a “Hellfighter” when a famous movie star made a film of the same name. We spoke to this American hero’s family, who tells us their patriarch served God fighting fires.
Asger “Boots” Hansen, who was part of a group of firefighters who put out oil fires around the world, died in his Iona home at the age of 93 last Sunday.
“He just thought it was another way to serve the lord, as he would say,” said Beverly Hansen, Boots’ wife.
Boots left such a lasting mark with the group of firefighters that actor John Wayne starred in the film “Hellfighters” about the men who went all over to extinguish raging oil fires.
For decades, Boots and his partner Ed “Coots” Matthews traveled the world as part of the “Hellfighters.”
Boots’ son, Ozzie Hansen, said he will never forget the exciting days when the film based on his father’s actions were brought to the silver screen.
“We got to go on the set three or four times and go to the parties they had and the premiere,” Ozzie said. “John Wayne had come to our house a couple times.”
But Boots never went to Hollywood.
In the 1990s, after the end of the Gulf War, former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and his army ignited 700 oil wells in Kuwait. Boots and Coots were one of the first on scene. And Beverly said she watched her husband on television.
“Everybody’s saying, ‘Oh, there’s all these unexploded rigs everywhere,’” Beverly said. “And there he is riding along right through it. And I’m just screaming at the TV.”
Boots retired after fighting the fires in Kuwait. He and his family have spent the last two decades in Southwest Florida.
“Work hard, play hard, they did that,” Ozzie said. “That’s what made him cool.”