Smoke from burnt crude oil contains many chemicals, including , , , , , and . Exposure to oil well fires is commonly cited as a cause of the , however, studies have indicated that the firemen who capped the wells did not report any of the symptoms suffered by the soldiers.
Oil well fires can cause the loss of millions of of per day. Combined with the problems caused by the large amounts of smoke and unburnt petroleum falling back to earth, oil well fires such as those seen in (1991) can cause enormous economic losses.
The Kuwaiti oil fires were caused by setting fire to a reported 605 to 732 along with an unspecified number of oil filled low-lying areas, such as oil lakes and fire , as part of a policy while retreating from in 1991 due to the advances of military forces in the . The fires were started in January and February 1991, and the first were extinguished in early April 1991, with the last well capped on November 6, 1991.
In essence the trade was started by , who dominated the field in the early years. His lieutenant, Red Adair, went on to become the most famous of oil well firefighters.