Capt. Robert Lovelace and the Pirates of Broadway


Posted Tue, Jun 14, 2016

Robert Lovelace with the Black Pearl. Photo: [Duane Hirschfeld]

Capt. Robert Lovelace with the Black Pearl. [Photo: Duane Hirschfeld]

LITTLETON, Colo. — Firefighters across the country are out there each day, putting their lives on the line to save others, responding to every emergency situation imaginable. Not only do they protect people’s properties — they are saving lives. These are true American heroes.

One such hero is Robert Lovelace, Captain of the Littleton Fire Rescue # 12. Previously experienced in Emergency Medical Services working as a paramedic for four years, he later decided being a firefighter would be the most rewarding career. As a result, he has worked in Littleton for 20 years.

While in the U.S. Army, Lovelace was trained as a combat medic, where he found his passion. After serving his duty, he worked for a private ambulance company as a paramedic.

“I did a brief stint of seven or eight years as an instructor at a paramedic program and decided that I really liked the fire service,” Lovelace explains. “Did two years at Sheridan Fire Department, and then the last 20 years here.”

Challenges and Rewards

Lovelace spends 48 hours a week solely at the Littleton Fire Rescue, his home away from home, complete with basic accommodations: bedrooms, kitchen, living room and showers. While at the station, he sometimes runs about 17-25 calls. This can be difficult on a firefighter’s family considering he sometimes has to miss birthdays, holidays, school plays and so forth.

Little Fire Rescue #12, from left to right - Cory Lambert, Dominic Penaflor and Robert Lovelace. [Photo: Duane Hirschfeld]

Little Fire Rescue #12, from left to right – Cory Lambert, Dominic Penaflor and Robert Lovelace. [Photo: Duane Hirschfeld]

“A lot of times that first day is just to go home, have a little bit to eat then sleep the rest of the day,” Lovelace says. “That was always kind of hard on the wife and family.”

Lovelace considers his coworkers family as well, finding that the special bond with firefighters is unbreakable.

“It’s the camaraderie, the brotherhood, which I kind of got hooked on in the military,” he says. “This is about as close to that as you can get. I enjoy working with a group of people for 48-hours with a common goal. It’s just kick-ass fun.”

One of his favorite memories as a firefighter was experiencing rapid childbirth, which has happened about seven times throughout his career. He finds these moments to be very special and meaningful, bringing a new life into the world. One such situation happened during Super Bowl Sunday.

“The Broncos were playing, and her husband told her, ‘Hey, you got a few minutes? We can wait,’” says Lovelace. “And…she couldn’t! She had it on the kitchen floor. But those are probably the best.”

The Pirates of Broadway

Robert Lovelace demonstrating how to pack a ladder truck. [Photo: Duane Hirschfeld]

Capt. Robert Lovelace demonstrating how to pack a ladder truck. [Photo: Duane Hirschfeld]

On the firetruck, Robert Lovelace is assigned to a ladder on top of the vehicle. In addition, his job consists of a few things — navigate his team to the right location and pre-plan how they will go about the situation.

Dominic Penaflor and Cory Lambert both work with Lovelace. Penaflor handles the pump but also drives the truck to and from the scene. He puts the ladder up and down, and handles the water pumps. Lambert is the firefighter who sits in a section at the rear of the truck they like to refer to as the “dog house.”

“He [Lambert] pretty much does all the work,” Lovelace says laughing. “I supervise him to make sure everything is done safely, and we have a plan on how we’re going to go about cutting the car apart. Dominic takes care of getting the engine started, the power compressor and hooking the tools and the hoses up to it. Cory does all the work. He does all the cutting, and manipulating of the metal.”

Lovelace says that there is no rhyme or reason for which seasons are the most busy. However, one guarantee is the fourth of July, when everybody parties a little too hard over that weekend. Otherwise there’s no predicting it which Lovelace believes is the cool part about the job. They never know what’s to come, keeping them on their toes.

Advice for Future Firefighters

Lovelace believes that the biggest, most important way to get into a firefighter career is to first stay out of trouble. They end up with guys that make it all the way through with the testing process, becoming emergency medical technicians but they have something on their records that prevent them from getting a job.

Robert Lovelace enjoying a downtime moment between calls. [Photo: Duane Hirschfeld]

Robert Lovelace enjoying a downtime moment between calls. [Photo: Duane Hirschfeld]

“The first thing is stay out of trouble. Stay in school,” Lovelace says. “You can’t apply or get one of these jobs until you’re 21 so get in college. It’s not a requirement, but once you’re on with a fire department, it is a requirement to promote, so you might as well be working on that. Then just make sure it’s the passion that you want, because it’s not a job that you can just tap into, saying ‘Ok, I work from 8-5 p.m.’ At 2 o’clock in the morning, you need to love your job.”

Students take a written test with the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) as well as another test called Candidate Physical Ability (CPAT), which is a physical agility test. Testers can go a few times to practice. Also, one has to be at least an Emergency Medical Technician. If there is a paramedic background, all the better.

“I think the last 2-3 years now, all we’ve done is hire paramedics,” Lovelace says.

The Black Pearl

Each station has their own nickname or mascot. Station 13, for example, is referred to as the “Lucky 13s.” Robert Lovelace works at Station 12, referred to as the “Pirates of Broadway.”

“Somewhere along the lines, we became the Pirates of Broadway,” Lovelace says. “At one point, a patient that passed away willed a parrot to the station, and actually, the parrot lived here until about two years ago. We sent her off to a refuge so she can fly around and everything. Our name got started there.”

They named their ladder truck “The Black Pearl.” Lovelace admits the movie “Pirates of the Caribbean” was very popular at the time, and it helped influence the station’s mascot. The side of the truck actually has an insignia of a skull-n-crossbones, commonly known as the symbol of pirates. The difference, of course, being instead of taking lives, the Pirates of Broadway are saving them.

About Kavann Tok

Kavann Tok is a freelance Denver-area journalist. Website:

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