The city of Lawrence was forced to close down a fire station Friday, after several EMS employees called in sick just days before being laid off.
Station #40, located at 59th Street and Lee Road, was out of operation as firefighters were needed to cover for EMTs and paramedics at other stations.
Wilch said he didn't consider calling in sick on his last day.
"It was a chance to kind of spend one last hurrah with my second family and come in and do my job to try to and serve the citizens of Lawrence," Wilch said.
But the EMT said he understands why five of his co-workers did call in.
"I don't know that it's necessarily a message," Wilch said. "I mean, we're already losing our jobs and going into unemployment. You know, (they're) trying to lose less, I think, is more of what it is than anything else, using this day to potentially look for another job."
Whatever the reason behind the sick days, Battalion Chief Dino Batalis said it certainly isn't common.
"I don't recall, in my career here, ever having to shut down a station," Batalis said.
Batalis says Station #40 was selected because firefighters were needed to fill ambulance shifts in other areas and they can only stretch staffing so far.
"We won't let any less than three firefighters be on the fire engine or a ladder," Batalis said.
Though the closure isn't permanent, Station #40 still won't be the same once the budget cuts take effect on Monday.
"The fire house will still be here and be open, it just won't have a fire engine in it," Batalis said.
According to Batalis, Station #40 will soon be staffed by just three firefighters who will primarily provide medical support with a fire safety vehicle and an ambulance.
Without a fire engine, Batalis said response times for fires in the area will be longer.
"They're going to have to wait until the other engines arrive from the surrounding stations," Batalis said.
"If you think about it, that's kind of scary, living in an apartment," said Sandy Dishman, who lives in a large apartment complex across the road from Station #40.
"Just a couple of winters ago, we even had someone over here who got stuck on the ice and they were right there," said Tajuana Arila, who also lives in the complex. "It's really disappointing to hear that."
"You know, things could happen and there won't be anyone here to help," Dishman said.
"I would tell them to be concerned," Wilch said. "To what extent I can't speak, but I think you're going to see changes starting Monday when you have basically cut 20 percent of the staff of the fire department."
In addition to the closure of Station #40, the Lawrence Fire Department also worked with one less crew at another station on Friday. That was also due to the staffing issue.