I am looking for the scenes in Hellfighters that was filmed in Gillette, Wyoming. This forum among many places says it was filmed in Gillette, but I haven't found any proof of that yet.
From what I gathered October 1967 Simpson oil well #1 owned by Philip Anschutz caught on fire outside the city limits of Gillette, Wyoming. He called Red Adair to get his crew to put it out who refused at first. Adair told Anschutz that he checked him out and he didn't check out, but he agreed and told him if he didn't pay no one would ever put out a fire for him again.
Adair sent Boots and Coots to Gillette. Anschutz didn't have enough money to pay Adair so he convinced Universal Studios to pay $100k for the opportunity to film the oil fire. Universal sent a film crew by plane to Gillette during the preproduction of the movie before the actors were involved. The crew spent their off time in Gillette drinking. Adair's crew failed to put out the fire and eventually 60mph gusts blew it out. Anschutz later said it was the biggest event of his life and was a make or break moment. There is more to the story, but that is the short version.
Here is a photo of the oil fire.
Campbell County, WY - Official Website
I don't believe it was the first scene of the movie as actors are involved and the well wasn't burning yet. The oil well had already burned down by the time the film crew arrived. It isn't the scenes with all the oil wells in the background because that is Salt Creek Oil Field near Casper, Wyoming. The first night time scene has actors present and there is other oil rigs, roads, and other things not seen in the photo. The next night scene looks like a special effect setup, has actors present, and the grass is really green unlike the Gillette area at the time. The Venezuela scenes take place near Midwest and Casper, Wyoming.
Here is a behind the scenes look at the movie. The article is called Hellfire Made to Order on page 48.
books?id=wCkDAAAAMBAJIt says Wayne saw clips of a real oil fire to prepare him. Which I assume was the Gillette fire. Also mentions that special effects expert Fred Knoth came to Gillette to observe a real fire.
In the book Duke: The Life and Image of John Wayne it says John Wayne came to Gillette in 1968 to film the movie. That never happened. Several other books talking about the incident are also wrong about the details.
Wyoming, A History of Film and Video, a book on CD-ROM by Walt Farmer has lengthy detailed account of the movie and Wyoming's role in it down to how many minutes each area sees in the movie. It has several behind the scenes photos of Wayne and others I have never seen anywhere else. Farmer says director Andrew McLaglen and producer Bob Arthur came to Gillette as well as Knoth to see the oil fire. Farmer also discusses in detail what Wayne did while in Casper, Wyoming, but he says little about Gillette and nothing about it making it into the movie. Walt Farmer died a few years ago so I can't ask him for more details.
The Salt Creek Oil Museum in Midwest, Wyoming is supposed to have displays and much information about the filming of the movie. I went once and they were closed. I wasn't able to contact them via phone or email.
I spoke with the museum director in Gillette. He told me that he couldn't find any of the scenes in the movie with Gillette either and was unable to find the original preproduction footage. He believes none of the Gillette footage made it into the final film. If anyone can point out Gillette in Hellfighters please let me know.