May 19, 2023
One of my biggest Insider tips that can really improve your experience in Dollywood, is to take the time to learn the backstories behind the prominent attractions. It takes the whole experience to the next level as you realize you are participating in a story. Right now, there's a lot of buzz surrounding Dollywood’s newest attraction: Big Bear Mountain. Deservingly so, but don’t let the excitement overshadow the other excellent coasters in Dollywood. I want to showcase here another one of my favorites, FireChaser Express, and enlighten you on the story surrounding this ride.
When you pass by this thrilling family coaster, you see it towering above Wilderness Pass and hear its own unique soundtrack. You hear the siren of the fire truck coaster bursting out of the station. If you’ve ridden it before, you remember its thrill, the exquisite view of the park from atop, and how after you think you may have completed the circuit, the coaster launches you backwards on the track to the fire station.
What all is going on here? Well, FireChaser Express is housed in Fire Station 7. Fire Chief Pete Embers is the character who oversees this station. You’ll see his desk at the station as you enter the line queue. You’ll see his hats, maps, books and a poster of Smokey the Bear, but you won’t see Chief Embers. He’s very busy and takes post at a fire lookout tower, keeping an eye out for fires in the Smoky Mountains.
Another character essential to this attraction is Crazy Charlie. He owns Crazy Charlie’s Gas and Fireworks Emporium. It’s quite a dangerous combination one may conclude. His name is befitting, as he is quite eccentric and a bit of a nuisance, always calling Chief Embers at Fire Station 7 to report on some perceived danger. He’ll smell something or suspect something when there’s never a real issue. He’s also always test-launching fireworks which end up littered all around Fire Station 7. Some even have landed on the roof of the Volunteer Supply (the attraction’s souvenir shop). Chief Embers has had enough of dealing with Crazy Charlie, but just as he’s about to wrap things up, he gets hold of a rumor that Crazy Charlie is working on a giant firework to break all his records called “Big Bertha.” This time, there really might be a legitimate concern.
Now, this is where you, the park guest, enters. Chief Embers is looking for volunteer firefighters to serve in Fire Station 7 and keep an eye on Crazy Charlie. As a guest (or volunteer firefighter), you are “on duty” as you board the coaster (or “firetruck”). You’ll hear in the station a call of emergency. Sirens will sound and Chief Embers will say, “This is not a drill.” The firetruck coaster will launch out of the station, zipping along Crazy Charlie’s firework testing zone. When you reach the top of the hill, you will have arrived at Crazy Charlie’s Gas and Fireworks Emporium. Committed to safety, the coaster will take you and your fellow volunteer firefighters into the store’s stockroom where you will see dozens of fireworks, and you’ll find the rumor is true! You’ll see the massive Big Bertha. After some back and forth, you'll hear Crazy Charlie say, “This doesn’t look good.” Big Bertha is accidentally ignited, rocketing you out of the store on your “firetruck,” backwards to the station. Or so the story goes…
After learning this story, I was excited to ride this coaster again and really pay attention to the details. It made my experience all the more immersive. There are a lot of items and signs that relate to this story in the attraction. In addition to seeing Chief Ember’s desk, there also is a chalkboard on the wall in the station logging all of Crazy Charlie’s calls. In the line queue, I took the time to look up at Crazy Charlie’s Gas and Fireworks Emporium and notice the gas pump and the eccentricity of the place, which I never really noticed before. I also noticed there in the line queue were photos on the wall of all the firefighters, including a photo of Chief Embers.
Apart from the items directly pertaining to the story, there also are a few other unique gems to point out. All throughout the line queue are vintage firefighting equipment. One of the most notable is a restored 1941 Ford fire truck. Just inside Fire Station 7’s main building, you will find dozens of fire hoses dangling down. These are from real fire stations throughout Tennessee and are signed by real firemen. A plaque accompanies them, reading: “In honor of our local heroes…We salute the men and women who are always ready and willing to answer the call.” These hoses are one of a few tributes to firefighters. At the entrance of the attraction is a statue of a firemen and a large plaque labeled “Saluting Our Firemen,” which is worth taking the time to read. As Dolly Parton explained at the ride's grand opening in 2014, this ride seeks to honor the brave service of firefighters every day.
Next time you go to Dollywood, take the time to observe all these tributes, relics and story elements. Ride FireChaser Express with the mindset that you are participating in the story of Pete Embers and Crazy Charlie. It also helps children who may have hesitancy to ride some of the more thrilling rides to explain the story to them. Pretending, imagining and participating in the story can ease the nerves of younger park guests and help them really enjoy the experience.
So what are you waiting for? Fire Station 7 is still looking for volunteer recruits!
If you enjoyed this “Deep Dive,” you may also enjoy my in-depth looks at Dollywood’s Mystery Mine and JukeBox Junction here:
Deep Dive into Dollywood’s Mystery Mine: https://www.dollywood.com/insiders/deep-dive-dollywoods-mystery-mine/
Deep Dive into Dollywood’s JukeBox Junction: https://www.dollywood.com/insiders/a-deep-dive-into-dollywoods-jukebox-junction/
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All Insiders Attractions