WOODSTOCK – One look around Michael Wurtz’s wedding was all anyone needed to see to understand the passion he had for his job.
Wurtz tied the knot in 2012 at Woodstock Fire/Resuce District Station 3 – one of the stations he spent more than a decade at sacrificing all he could to protect the community, even through cancer. Wurz, 47, died Friday at the JourneyCare Hospice Facility in Woodstock after a two-year battle with cancer.
Woodstock Fire Chief Ralph Webster said Wurtz battled the disease with the intensity and relentlessness that made him one of the fiercest firefighters on the squad.
“There were a couple fires we went out on where there was high humidity and just awful conditions and he would work until he became dehydrated and passed out,” Webster recalled. “He would work until total exhaustion and he brought that same fight to cancer.”
Wurtz started with the department in 2002 before becoming a full-time firefighter in 2006. Full-time work with the fire department was only part of Wurtz’s service to the community as he also served a police officer for McCullom Lake and a member of the Lake/McHenry Country Wildland Firefighting Team.
Cancer did little to quell Wurtz’s intense work ethic, Webster said, as he still performed some shift duties up until mid-November.
Woodstock Fire Capt. Michael Hill said Wurtz was as great of a person as he was a firefighter, and his death will leave a void in the department and community.
“Mike had the heart of a true firefighter,” Hill said. “He always had a positive attitude and was always someone you could count on in any situtation. He would go an extra mile even when he didn’t have to.”
Through Wurtz’s battle with cancer, the departmant also rallied together and showed the family connection firefighters share is more than a slogan. The department held a fundraiser in November to support Wurtz and his family and helped at his house and with his family anytime they could, Hill said. Firefighters even donated sick time and vacation time so that Wurtz could stay on the roster as long as possible.
“It’s very well known that in the fire service we think of each other as family,” Hill said. “We lost a brother.”
Wurtz is survived by his wife, three daughters, two stepchildren and many extended family members.
A public visitation will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Woodstock Assembly of God Church on 1201 Dean St. in Woodstock. Firefighters also will do a procession throughout Woodstock Tuesday, going to the stations Wurtz served at.