LEADVILLE, Colo. --
The Leadville mayor and fire chief are blasting deputies who briefly jailed and cited a fire captain for trying to aid a domestic violence victim at the Lake County Sheriffs Office.
Underlying the dispute, fire union officials say, is a campaign by Lake County Sheriff Edward Holte and Emergency Manager Jeff Foley to combine operations of the sheriffs department and Leadville Fire Department.
Leadville Mayor Bud Elliott called it "a giant power grab" by sheriff's officials. He and Fire Chief Bob Harvey said they're concerned the jurisdictional clash is jeopardizing the public's safety.
The dispute ignited March 27 when Leadville Fire Capt. Daniel Dailey, an emergency medical technician, responded with two fellow firefighters to the sheriff's office after deputies called a hospital ambulance for a female domestic violence victim.
There's conflicting accounts about what happened next.
Dailey told the Leadville Herald Democratic that his fire EMT crew arrived before the Saint Vincent Hospital ambulance. Dailey said deputies tried to deny the fire crew access to the patient, insisting on waiting for the ambulance to arrive.
But in a written statement and interviews Thursday, sheriff's officials said Deputy Steve James wanted to keep the fire EMTs outside, because the ambulance crew was already inside caring for the woman and he didn't want to crowd the upset patient.
"The deputy (James) who had the ambulance team on scene ... was of the opinion that there were enough personnel on the scene and that the addition of the three firemen would serve no purpose other than to further upset the victim and her children," the sheriff's office statement said. Deputies told the fire crew "they were not needed."
However during an interview Thursday afternoon with 7News, the sheriff said, "the fire department was in the building first, the ambulance [team] was in the building second."
Finally, deputies told firefighters if they didn't leave, they would be arrested.
Dailey told the deputies that he would rather be arrested than leave a medical scene, the Herald Democrat reported.
Deputies handcuffed the fire captain and placed him in a holding cell for an hour and fifteen minutes.
Dailey was eventually cited for "obstruction of a governmental operation" and released, the sheriff's office said. Sheriff's officials referred the case to the district attorney who will decide if formal charges are warranted.
The two other fire crew members left the scene after they were threatened with jail, too.
The ambulance crew eventually transported the woman to the local hospital, but not before calling back the two firefighters for assistance.
"I never thought I would be in jail, with handcuffs on for trying to take care of a patient," Dailey told the Herald Democrat. "I took an oath to protect the community and its citizens. I was doing that to the best of my ability, and my freedoms were taken away because of it."
The sheriff insisted he does not want to takeover the local fire agency.
"The intention of my office and my people is not to be a fire department, but to be able to enhance what the fire department does," Holte told TheDenverChannel.com Thursday. "My guys are cops, they want to be cops, but they also want to be able to help the community.
The sheriff said his staff wants to support public safety by assisting with emergency medical treatment, fire fighting and hazardous materials incidents.
"It is not that we want to be taking over things. It's that we want to be able to help," Holte said.
This was a softer tone that Holte used during an earlier Herald Democrat interview.
By showing up on a scene without being dispatched, firefighters "disregard our authority and abilities," Sheriff Holte told the local newspaper. "It's like a slap in the face."