INSPIRATION POINT — Third-generation firefighter Joe Hart says that it’s human nature to want to help others. Hart, his father and grandfather were firemen for the Denver Fire Department. Joe Hart is a recently retired District Chief and four of his seven brothers are firemen: Tim, Steve, Jim and David. The fireman force is strong with the Harts.
“Most of our family has gone into the civil service or the military,” said Mary (Hart) Roybal, one of Joe’s four sisters whose husband Jim also serves on Denver’s fire department.
Grandfather Arthur “Artie” G. Hart joined the Denver Fire Department in 1923. His only son Robert Hart joined the department in 1948 after serving in the Navy during World War II, and Artie Hart’s grandchildren carry on the proud tradition of service today.
“Tim and I came on the fire department in 1978,” said Joe Hart. “Steve came on in 1980, and then Jim and Dave in 1991. Dave is the captain of the heavy rescue unit based out of Station 11, at 2nd and Broadway. That rescue unit is trained to tunnel into collapsed buildings, perform water rescues, high-angle rescues or tear apart a vehicle to extricate somebody.”
Steve, born in 1957, is a fireman in Denver as well as a pilot for Frontier Airlines. “He went on the fire department in 1980,” Joe Hart said. “He received his aviation degree at Metro State College while working for the department.”
Younger brother Mark, born in 1963, graduated from the Air Force Academy. He chose to be a policeman in Denver’s District 2. “He went to the dark side,” Joe Hart said, laughing about his brother not becoming a fireman.
Oldest brother Mike graduated from Holy Family in 1963 and attended CU for one year before receiving an appointment to West Point Academy; he didn’t serve on the fire department.
Robert Hart was injured several times performing his duty, but one event from 1971 stands out for son Joe: “There were a lot of condominium complexes being built; construction companies would get them to the ‘dried-in’ stage, at which point they could be insured. A week later, they’d burn down. My father, then an assistant chief, suspected that a fire was planned at a complex being built in his district—District 7, at Kentucky Ave. and Florida St. My father wanted to get aerial photos of the complex, so if it burned they could compare burn patterns after the fact.”
On September 2, 1971, Robert Hart had just lifted off in a police helicopter from the Currigan Hall landing pad, with Denver Police Department pilot Charles Nidey and fire department photographer Terry Brennan, when an engine problem developed shortly after takeoff. They crashed at 12th and Champa Streets, behind the Denver Fire Prevention Headquarters. They all survived and continued to serve.
Joe Hart reflected on how his grandfather not only fought fires but also was a creative individual. “Artie—we never called him grandpa—was an engineer who operated a pumper at Station 9 in Globeville,” Hart said. “The engineer is the truck driver-operator and stays with that piece of equipment throughout the ordeal; he makes things work. The firehouse company officer, either a captain or a lieutenant, rides in the right seat. The engineer is second in rank on the rig.
“Well, Artie invented a device—a small box with scrolls, like a player piano—that calculated nozzle pressure, gallons per minute and nozzles for different sized hoses; it told you the pump pressure needed. It’s called a friction loss calculator,” Joe Hart said. “He always carried it in the cab of the truck.
“I have a story about my brother Dave. He was at a home fire last Christmas where there was fire in the walls and in the attic. Having noticed presents still beneath the tree, Dave ordered his guys to quickly grab all the gifts and put them under a tarp in the yard.
“When a fire is in the walls and the attic, we knock holes in the ceiling and walls, and when we leave it’s a terrible sight. When the homeowners surveyed the damage with the fire chief, they were devastated by the loss of everything in their home. But then they noticed the presents in the yard and turned to my brother and said, ‘You saved our Christmas.’ Dave said that was a great reward for doing his job.”
Robert and Beverly Hart raised eight boys and four girls, whose births span a quarter of a century, from Mike, the oldest, born in 1945, to the birth of Jimmy in 1970. All of the Hart children attended Holy Family School at 43rd Ave. and Utica St., from first grade through twelfth, as did their parents, who met at the school.
“After my dad returned from WWII, our parents scrimped and put every nickel together they could to buy a row house for $ 3000,” Joe Hart said. That house, in the Sloan Lake neighborhood, at 23rd and Julian, was right next to a row house owned by their grandparents, Artie and Theresa. Mary Hart added that their parents had six children at the time they moved from the two-bedroom row house.
“The family moved to 4840 Depew St. in the Inspiration Point neighborhood in 1956, the year I was born,” said Joe Hart. “They had the Depew house built by a guy who used a horse-drawn scraper bucket to dig out the basement.”
“The rewards of being a fireman are tremendous,” said Joe Hart. “The main thing is the willingness to give a hand to help someone in need. When young firemen come on, they want to do that big rescue, they want to be the guy who gets into the battle, and it isn’t until later, after they see the pain and misery of the victims, that they lose that sort of enthusiasm.
“When we go through training, we’re taught that you aren’t supposed to throw your life away. But if it comes down to risking your life to save somebody else’s, you have to go; and our firemen know that.”
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