John "Axe" Adcox is the secondary antagonist in the 1991 film Backdraft. He was portrayed by actor Scott Glenn. He is the friend turned enemy of firefighter brothers Stephen and Brian McCaffrey.
John Adcox was born in Chicago, Illinois and had big dreams of working for the Chicago Fire Department. When he began his career, he worked under the leadership of fire captain Dennis McCaffrey, the father of Stephen and Brian McCaffrey until he lost his life in 1971 when a gas line burst and burned him to death. After Dennis lost his life, John looked after Stephen and Brian and was like an uncle to them since he and the other firefighters were like family.
20 years after Dennis McCaffrey lost his life, Brian McCaffrey wound up back in the fire department and a string of arson fires have broken out killing three men who work for a controversial Mayoral candidate named Martin Swayzak, who is notorious for shutting down firehouses for personal gains and has made money off of the deaths of many firefighters. Brian decides to speak to imprisoned arsonist Ronald Bartel about what had been happening since he's the expert with fire, especially since he started the fire that killed Dennis 20 years earlier. When Brian asks Ronald who was responsible for the fires, he says to him that he won't reveal who the culprit unless he tells him if Brian tells him that he wanted to be like Dennis. Brian replies that he did want to do Dennis' job. Ronald later says that whoever is setting the fires hates fire, but possibly uses it for a vengeful tactic using a chemical called trychtichlorate (a fictional chemical substance) and possibly sits around it all day. Brian is alarmed about this theory and realizes that it might be Stephen, his older brother. Brian goes over to Stephen's boat to see what was in the chemicals that John (not shown) gave to Stephen. When he finds trychtichlorate written on the cans, his fear gets more intense. Stephen pays a visit and asks what Brian is doing. Brian explains that he came to see how he was doing. Stephen explains that he's selling Dennis' boat. Brian goes back to the firehouse to see if Stephen had anymore flammable chemicals, he looks inside the locker and only finds clothes and pictures. Brian sees John combing his hair and notices that he has a towel on his left shou,rian asks how he could know that John was responsible for the fires. He explains that John gave the chemicals to him, because the department was throwing them out. Grindle, a fellow firefighter tells Stephen that a call came in and that he and his brother need to roll. Stephen tells Brian that he'll handle John about it. Before Brian leaves for Engine 17, he sees that John has been spying on the conversation. Brian then leaves for Engine 17, but zooms away. So, he grabs firefighter gear and heads for Truck 46 since Engine 17 left earlier. Truck 46 tips over on its side and Brian heads to the fire on foot to find his brother. Brian climbs up an aerial ladder and finds Stephen confronting John. John explains to Stephen and Brian that he set the fires, because Swayzak was making money off of the deaths of firefighters. Both brothers are disappointed in their friend for his wrongdoing. After Brian falls into an elevator shaft full of water, Stephen comes to his rescue and takes him inside to confront their former friend. Just as the two brothers head in, John knocks Brian unconscious. Stephen corners John and John says "I just couldn't let it go, Bull." "Yeah!" replies Stephen. Brian regains consciousness and John bursts into tears after realizing that what he did was inappropriate. Barrels of chemicals burst into the air causing a catwalk to give way. Stephen and John hold on for dear life and struggle to get back up. John requests Stephen to let him go. Stephen refuses to let go, but due to how heavy they are, he lets go. John is burned to death while Stephen survives, but is fatally wounded. Brian alerts two firefighters that Stephen is hurt. Lieutenant Pengelly and Firefighter Nightengale come to rescue Stephen, but their hose gets blown back and Brian fights the fires surrounding his friends. Stephen is taken out to the ambulance and tells Brian to not reveal that John was behind the fires. Brian keeps his promise. Stephen then dies and a funeral is held for both Stephen and John.