GREATER BURGAN OILFIELD, Kuwait (AP) _ Burgan 247 was blown out like a candle.
It took only 2 1/2 minutes to douse the raging fire in the well thanks to a red and orange wonder machine used by a Hungarian firefighting team.
The contraption, the only one of its kind used in Kuwait, consists of two MiG-21 turbine engines mounted on an ancient Soviet T-34 tank.
The idea for such a machine was developed by technical specialists at the University of Budapest five years ago, according to the head of the Hungarian team, Sandor Szabo.
Similar machines are used to fight forest fires.
Burgan 247, extinguished Thursday, was the fifth well to be put out by the Hungarian the 23-man team since it began work in the Greater Burgan field earlier this month.
The field, with its 663 wells, was one of the largest producing fields in the world. Of the 732 oil wells damaged or set ablaze by the Iraqis before Kuwait was liberated Feb. 26, 423 wells were in Burgan.
Firefighting crews have been able to extinguish 584 wells since March, said Saud al-Nashmi, general manager of drilling and well control operations at the Kuwait Oil Co.
Word about ″Wild Wind″ has spread to the other firefighting teams who are using conventional methods.
Many workers take a break from work to go watch the Hungarian firefighters dressed in their red outfits as they snuff out the fire.
″It’s spectacular,″ said Jim Brown, a British field engineer with the giant U.S. company, Bechtel.
The drama begins when the tank rumbles through the desert sand toward the burning well. It comes to a halt about eight yards away from the well, where crews have already started cooling the well with jets of water.
The engines are then turned on and the deafening sound resembles that of a plane ready to take off. As the engine is heating up, water hoses are connected to the turbines, which are fitted with three water guns each.
One crew member standing next to the tank operates two joysticks in a box to adjust the guns.
When the guns are in position, air sucked by the engines pushes the water through the guns and straight into the fire, with each turbine pumping 1,000 gallons of water per minute.
As the water hits, thick ripples of black smoke rise from the fire, slowly turning into white and then light brown.
After the fire is extinguished, the well is doused with water for about 30 minutes to cool the small mountain of black coke that had gathered on top of the well.
Szabo said a small well the size of Burgan 247 usually takes 1 1/2 hours to extinguish by conventional means.
Szabo said the tank has five crew members who had army training in order to learn how to drive the tank and operate the engines.
Besides the Hungarians, there are American, Canadian, Chinese, Kuwaiti, Iranian, Romanian and French teams fighting the fires in the south and north of the emirate.
The fires in the south have been restricted to the Greater Burgan field, where oil fires are still raging.
The area deep inside the field looks like a large dark cave, with light coming only from the red glow of the fires and car headlights.
Fire whirlwinds rise in some of the wells surrounded by large ground fires surrounded by leaking oil.
Burned vehicles and tanks lie on both sides of the roads and on the edges of oil lakes which were caused by seepages from wells that have been destroyed but not ignited.