Small Details Spark Big Surprises On New Fire In The Hole

Small Details Spark Big Surprises On New Fire In The Hole

By Brandei Clifton
February 28, 2024


Jumping in puddles and crawling on concrete while wearing a strange pair of pants is just another day at the “office” for Erica Rutledge – a creative mind behind the new Fire In The Hole at Silver Dollar City.

While Red Flanders’ missing pants might be the most famous pair in the attraction, the jeans Erica recently roughed up belong to a Baldknobber.

“Patches’ clothes were just too clean,” she laughs. “We wanted them to reflect what the characters went through the night the City caught fire so we put on the pants —and shoes— and had some fun! We figured the best way to make them look worn was by wearing them!”

The tattered hem and muddy marks on Patches’ pants are just a few of the countless special details Erica hopes will spark a big experience for guests. Her imagination has always run wild like fire. As a little girl, she glued shoeboxes together to make big houses and set up “theme parks” in her backyard for neighborhood friends. That incredible attention to detail stuck with her as she grew up to study design, landing on the team at Herschend Creative Studios, where she brings that childhood magic to life for millions of visitors.


Her somewhat secret focus since 2019 has been reimagining the iconic Fire In The Hole at Silver Dollar City, long before the park announced the old ride would retire.

“This has all been years in the making. It was a big task coming up with a concept that brings the nostalgia of the old ride into a brand new experience for the next generation to enjoy,” she explains. “Fire In The Hole is such an important part of the park’s history. It really matters to our guests so we wanted to make sure it’s just right.”

Part of that plan was carefully refurbishing iconic parts of the old ride and brushing them up for their new home.

“Those pieces are such an important part of the story,” Erica says. “They help set the scene and tell the narrative of that night so long ago when townspeople became heroes and saved The City.”

Celebrating those heroes meant the creative team had to take many long, hard looks at the characters' faces.

“From hair color to eye color to expressions, we wanted the firefighters to look like heroes,” she smiles. “Every detail on them had to be authentic to the era. Even their costumes were specially created just for them.”


While she can’t give away all the surprises, Erica does say the look of the ride provides layers upon layers of fun little details that make the ride different each trip down the tracks.

“On the first ride, you’ll probably notice the big stuff like Red Flanders looking for his pants or that the bridge is on fire,” she says. “The next trip, you might notice the detail on the menu at the café that serves burnt toast and scorched eggs. You could ride it a hundred times and still notice something new!”

Fans of the old ride may remember that the “train” coming was actually a coffee can with light circling inside. A much more realistic locomotive is located in the new coaster and is modeled after The City’s Frisco Steam Train.

“I’m really proud that we were able to celebrate The City in that way,” Erica says. “A lot of our efforts honed in on authenticity and bringing the story to life.”

That includes the flames. The team carefully crafted lighting and sound effects to make sure the town looks and sounds aglow. Onboard audio will follow riders as they make their way through the attraction. Making sure the timing of those effects is perfect has been a real focus for Erica as the ride gets closer to its debut.

“I’ll make many trips through the ride to ensure the sound is synching up with what riders see,” Erica explains. “Part of the magic is hearing that crackle when you see flames and feeling like the town is actually on fire.”

While she admits those “work” trips down the track are vital, it’s another ride she’s looking forward to the most.


“I can’t wait until I’m on there for the first time with guests,” she gushes. “I can’t wait for them to see the heart and soul we put into making this ride. I hope they see what they loved about the old ride but fall in love with our new surprises. All of our efforts have been for them.”

It’s not only the attention to detail that makes the ride special, it’s the ride makers!

“What pulls this all together is Silver Dollar City’s Maintenance and Construction crew. Most of this attraction was built in-house or locally,” she says. This ride —like the original—was built by the people of Silver Dollar City. That’s why it's so special. We can proudly say this slice of adventure is all authentically ours. I just can’t wait!”

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