Fans bid fond farewell during last season of Silver Dollar City’s Fire in the Hole

Fans bid fond farewell during last season of Silver Dollar City’s Fire in the Hole

“Fire in the hole” is an expression indicating that an explosive detonation in a confined space is imminent. It originated with miners who needed to warn their colleagues that a charge had been set.

Fire in the Hole is also the name of an iconic roller coaster, celebrating its 51st and final year at Silver Dollar City near Branson, Mo.

Spokesmen for the 1880s-style theme park announced in March that this would be the last season for Fire in the Hole, a steel coaster that maxes out at 30 miles an hour. What makes it iconic is that the 3 minute ride all happens inside a building, in the dark.

“I thought what I was about to ride was for the kiddies,” says park spokesman Dalton Fischer of his first experience on Fire in the Hole as a 9-year-old. “But instead I found a thrilling, three-drop coaster full of fire effects and plenty of darkness. Sure, the drops aren’t record-breaking, but any drop in the dark makes the adventure much more thrilling! I found myself re-riding the coaster throughout the day, loving the little details I’d find in the various show scenes ride after ride.”

Now, he says, “I love listening to those who have just taken their first adventure on the coaster. Usually younger children, most of them are excited, as they’re telling their parents how the thrill of the ride surprised them, but many are also proud, as this was their very first ‘big’ coaster — and it happened all in the dark!”

“When Fire In The Hole opened more than a half century ago in 1972, one needs to keep in mind that steel coasters were in their infancy,” says Tim Baldwin, editor of RollerCoaster! magazine. “Up to that time, the larger coasters were still made of wood. This ride preceded Walt Disney World’s Space Mountain by three years! The fact that the park had the creative vision to place it indoors and make it a fusion of a dark ride along with roller coaster drops for a finale was rather groundbreaking.

“Before I even visited the park, I recall hearing my aunt and uncle who lived in southeast Kansas discussing their experience at the park,” Baldwin goes on. “They commented that the ride was really something and had a breathtaking ending. By the time my ‘coaster enthusiast genes’ kicked in, I was eager to experience what I had heard about. I was so surprised by all the scenes you passed throughout the ride. It wasn’t just a coaster in a box.

“In many ways, it is this type of signature attraction that set the standard for Silver Dollar City,” he adds. “They have unique and customized rides not found at other parks.”

So why close Fire in the Hole?

All Fischer will say is that the decision “coincides with preparation of unprecedented growth slated for the next 10 years at Silver Dollar City’s Branson properties.” An announcement is planned in August, but no hints have been forthcoming.

“This year is all about Fire In The Hole’s grand finale,” Fischer says. “We’re celebrating … those 25 million rides given throughout the past half-century.”

“I’m grateful that Silver Dollar City is giving guests fair notice to enjoy this classic ride for one final season,” says Duane Marden, founder of RCDB (Roller Coaster Data Base). “Fire In The Hole is a true classic from years past – a unique ride that’s a must-ride every park visit. Custom-built, enclosed roller coasters are an uncommon thing, and Silver Dollar City has operated Fire In The Hole longer than any other.”

According to Fischer, the ride’s storyline was modeled after the real-life mining town, Marmaros, that was located atop Marvel Cave, the original attraction that inspired Silver Dollar City. Fire in the Hole has fire brigade-themed trains that twist, turn and drop into a burning town, set ablaze by the infamous gang of Baldknobbers, turning riders into volunteer firefighters. On board the ride, you’ll meet townsfolk like Red Flanders wearing only his signature red long johns at the hotel or the tavern owner making a hasty getaway out the swinging front doors. And you’ll catch glimpses of the notorious Baldknobbers causing all the trouble. Not to mention traveling over the burning Kinney Bridge or nearly getting hit by the train coming down the tracks before dropping through a splashdown, all in an effort to extinguish the flames.

“On my first trip, I had no idea who the Baldknobbers were,” says Baldwin. “I knew there was a story to be told there. I love attractions that tell stories. Sometimes I’ll hear some young kids on the train saying the lines of the figures in the scenes: ‘I ain’t got no pants; the dang Baldknobbers took ‘em.’ It’s that connection when you know you have not only a timeless attraction but a beloved one.”

“Knowing what a superb park Silver Dollar City is, I fully expect what is coming next will be something very special,” says Justin Garvanovic, founder of the European Coaster Club. “Wonderful in a brilliant way, as we Brits would say.”

When Fire in the Hole is gone, Baldwin says, “I hope people will point to the area and recall riding with their parents. The ride is so multigenerational, that kids that grew up with it have taken their kids and now grandkids on it. That’s when you know you have a legacy ride, when so many ages still love it.

“People in the Missouri region probably have no idea that this ride was somewhat innovative in the amusement industry. For its time, it was ingenious. Technology and animatronics have advanced considerably since then, but people still have a fondness for what’s classic.”

Fire in the Hole will remain open through Dec. 30, Fischer says.



By The Numbers:

Fire in the Hole

Built: 1972

Ride time: 3 minutes

Track length: 1,520 feet

Trains: 4

Top speed: 30 mph

Drops: 3

Rides: 25 million over 51 years



Silver Dollar City

WHEN — Open daily through July and the first two weeks of August; open long weekends through the end of the year; Fire in the Hole will run through Dec. 30

WHERE — Branson, Mo.

COST — $85 & up



Look Here!

Take a virtual ride on Fire in the Hole at

Categories: Family Friendly