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Friday, July 11, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 77.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Firefighter answers the call of Wisconsin Capitol protests

Wunsch: ‘I’m here to support my brothers.’
Wunsch: ‘I’m here to support my brothers.’
Credit:Bill Lueders
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Adam Wunsch is a third-generation firefighter and proud of it. His grandfather, Lloyd, was for many years the fire chief in Haven, near Sheboygan; his uncle Brian holds that position today. His father, Steve Wunsch, is a member of the Fitchburg fire department and the chief of EMS at Middleton EMS.

A good-looking young man of 18, Adam Wunsch is an intern with the Fitchburg Fire Department, and he hopes to make a career of it. He's not a union member but would become one, as a full member of the department.

He serves on a crew of four firefighters that includes a mix of "public career guys" - members of Firefighters Local 311 and interns and on-call workers. He works a 24-hour shift every third day. Overall, the department has about 80 firefighters at a time.

Wunsch feels a sense of responsibility to all of them, and to firefighters across the state.

"I'm here to support my brothers, to [protect] their right to keep their union and to keep things fair," he says. Like many other firefighters, he is not consoled by Gov. Scott Walker's decision to exempt firefighters and law enforcement from his benefits squeeze and eradication of collective bargaining.

"The whole thing right here is setting a precedent for us," he says. "It's not a question of if [the governor will go after these workers], it's a question of when."

Wunsch came to the state Capitol late Friday afternoon, "with the intention of staying 20 minutes." He ended up staying until 4 a.m. Saturday; he worked a shift that day starting at 7 a.m.

At 8 a.m. Sunday, an hour after this shift ended, Wunsch was back at the Capitol, where he's been since, heading into his 32nd straight hour as we talked just past 3 p.m. He's thinking about sleeping there again today, "just to keep up a presence."

The Capitol Rotunda was packed again today, although, with ice on the ground and a cold wind blowing, there were not nearly as many people outside today as in recent days.

To my eye, the presence of law enforcement seemed thicker than in past days, although the officers I spoke with thought it was about the same. Some of the officers are getting paid overtime; some are getting straight time. This is costing somebody a fortune.

Ironically, part of why the police are here is to protect Gov. Walker from agitators like Adam Wunsch. But many more people are here to protect them from him.

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