With first responders, Donald Trump may play favorites. It's no secret that the Republican presidential nominee likes police officers. A lot. But firefighters — that relationship may be just a bit more complicated.
Since Trump's campaign began, a series of fire officials across the country have become his unwitting nemeses, as Trump publicly grumbles about their enforcement of the capacity restrictions at some of his rally venues.
At a February event in Madison, Ala., for instance, he complained at least twice that the fire marshal had closed the gates of the stadium where he said some 32,000 had come to hear him speak. (Local estimates put the figure of attendees at closer to 10,000.) "Let them come in, Mr. Fire Marshal," Trump said.
In a rare shift earlier this month, Trump had the opposite complaint: Phoenix officials, he said, "broke the fire code" by allowing too many people into the Convention Center room where he had spoken.
Those numbers did not quite jibe with the count of 4,200 to 4,500 his campaign gave reporters at the event — or with the fire department’s own numbers, which fell squarely in the middle of that range.
"Once capacity was reached, we closed the doors. No rules or codes were broken, and no one was in danger at anytime," Phoenix Fire Department spokeswoman Shelly Jamison told local station KPNX, adding that the Trump campaign had been offered the use of a larger room, but he had declined.
So there have been a few fiery attacks over the past few months. But on Friday in Colorado, Trump had a much less heated encounter with the Colorado Springs Fire Department after he and nine others were trapped in an elevator at the Mining Exchange Hotel.
"The firefighters were able to secure the elevator, open the top elevator hatch, lower a ladder into the elevator, which allowed all individuals to self-evacuate, including Mr. Trump, onto the second-floor lobby area," fire spokesman Steven Wilch told Colorado station KRDO in a Saturday report. Trump was more than an hour late to his event at the University of Colorado campus located in solidly conservative Colorado Springs — but he made it.
If you think that’s the sort of thing that might prompt him to mention the fire department in his remarks at that event, as you may have heard Friday, you’re right! "We have a fire marshal that said we can't allow more people," Trump said, as the crowd booed. "... The reason they can't let them in is because they don't know what they're doing."
The candidate said that Fire Marshal Brett Lacey was "probably a Democrat, probably a guy that doesn't get it."
Trump went on. "Hey, maybe they’re a Hillary person. Could that be possible? Probably," he said, calling the restriction a “disgraceful situation."
"This is the kind of thing we have in federal government also, by the way," he said, "and then you wonder why we’re going to hell. That’s why we’re going to hell."
Lacey — who was named Civilian of the Year by the department in February for his role in responding to a pair of deadly mass shootings in the city — said later that he did not mind the dig. He noted that he allowed a last-minute boost in the number of individuals allowed in the room, after the Trump campaign reportedly distributed too many tickets. But in an interview with Colorado’s KKTV-TV, the marshal refused to fight fire with fire.
“Sometimes there are people that aren't very happy with some of the rules and regulations we're required to enforce," Lacey said. "But it doesn't bother me at all.”