On Friday, March 21st, 2014, Dolly Parton’s theme park in the Great Smoky Mountains, Dollywood, launched a new family oriented roller coaster with the assistance of firefighters. The idea came to the park a while back when they were looking for a way to pay tribute to the heroes that protect communities across the United States on a daily basis. The FireChaser Express is the first family roller coaster of its kind. It is a dual launch coaster that launches out of a fire station themed building and temporarily stops in a firework storage shed. A fire breaks out launching the coaster backwards for the remainder of the ride until the “new recruits” return back to Fire Station Number 7.
The Heroes Tour by Dollywood traveled around the state of Tennessee to stop at fire stations to meet the men and women that work in the fire service. The tour made a stop in Kingsport earlier in the month, and also had visited several other departments including Cookeville, Nashville, Knoxville, etc. During the stop, the ’41 Ford Fire Engine made an appearance and is now on display at the ride entrance. The firefighters were also able to place their signature on a section of fire hose that will be on display following a ceremony at the park on May 4th, International Firefighter’s Day. You can read about the stop here in Kingsport in the article, Dollywood’s FireChaser Express Visits The Model City.
On Friday, at the media event held at the track, Dolly Parton herself made an appearance to kick off the new ride. She appeared wearing her very own turnout gear inspired outfit and rhinestone fire helmet. Firefighters from across the state also assisted in launching the coaster. Several firefighters and their children were on the coaster that launched out of the fire house. A line of firefighters also formed a “bucket brigade” to shuttle water into a bucket that was filled with water. Once the bucket of water tipped the scale, the coaster launched and fireworks flew into the air.
The entire event was a very nice tribute and a great opportunity for the park to thank all of us that climb on the rig everyday. They were sure to thank ALL firefighters, career and volunteer. In fact, the entire theme of the ride is built around a fictional fire department, the Wilderness Path Volunteer Fire Department. The decor throughout the waiting line and station where the coaster is boarded is filled with various pieces of fire memorabilia.
I would like to thank all the staff at Dollywood for welcoming us with open arms, and also thank all the other brothers that I was able to stand along side during the event. Everyone carried themselves in a professional manner, and the event was a great success due to that. Mark your calendars for May 4th, and be sure to check out Dollywood’s new coaster, the FireChaser Express!