Fire? Explosions? It is perfectly safe at Dollywood

(WBIR-Dollywood) As you’re zipping along the FireChaser Express there’s a lot more to see than the twisty tracks. You’re a volunteer headed to a fire at a gas station. And when you arrive…

“They notice that it’s full of fireworks and it’s perhaps dangerous and they’re starting to get a little worried and then you see some explosions and then boom, you come back out of there,” Ralph Nielsen said.

Ralph Nielsen led a team of about a dozen people who came up with ways to create a fun and realistic experience. They developed the concept from drawings to larger than life.

A critical design feature is making fire creep toward a rocket they call Big Bertha.

“She starts sparking and when she does she falls over and starts smoking and then the room fills up with smoke and you’re blasted out of the room backwards,” he explained.

The challenge was weaving together a story about fire and explosions while keeping it completely safe.

“Seven feet is as close as you can get to people with real flames. Another thing is you have to be less than 150 degrees on their forehead. So you can feel the heat but it’s not that hot,” he said.

And then there’s the whole explosion thing…

“We knew we wanted to do explosions so what we have in there is actually propane gas that gives you the explosions,” he said. “Because it’s propane and not a real fire we actually control when it starts and what the duration of it is and how big it is so you feel like you are in an explosion. And then we fill up the room with smoke that’s actually made from a combination of steam and liquid nitrogen.”

Of course nothing in the gas station setting can actually catch on fire.

“All the rockets and props we see over in the gas station are all made out of either metal or concrete. Nothing in there is made out of paper or anything that burns,” he said. “There’s a calendar on the wall, there’s posters, there’s boxes of what looks like fireworks and rockets and they are all made out of metal so they won’t burn and hurt anybody.”

You won’t get hurt or burned. Ralph Nielsen wants you to thoroughly enjoy journey as a volunteer firefighter in the FireChaser Express.

“I hope they want to go ride it again.”