The Berwyn Fire Department
Established in 1922, the Berwyn Fire Department is celebrating over 100 years of service. Their mission is to protect the community from the devastating effects of fire. However, over the years they have often gone above and beyond.
Today, the Berwyn Fire Department is led by Chief Scott Knuttila. His focus is ongoing training and development.
Together, the department is committed to providing the highest level of service to the community. In this interview, he is joined by Grimshaw Fire Department Chief Lawrence Arnold.
Chief Arnold, how has the Berwyn fire department changed over the years?
Arnold: In the late 1980s, the department experienced a significant shift as we started taking formal training through the Province of Alberta. We moved away from our traditional methods of firefighting and began to embrace modern techniques and equipment.
The move to updated gear, such as air masks and other critical tools, helped us ensure we were prepared for any situation we might face. It was a challenging but necessary process, and it has allowed us to provide better protection for our community.
Chief Knuttila, when did you join the department?
Knuttila: I have been with the Berwyn Fire Department for 11 years and have been serving as the chief since 2019.
From a young age, I had always been drawn to the idea of being a firefighter. As I immersed myself in the world of firefighting, I discovered an appreciation for the team atmosphere and camaraderie that came with working alongside my fellow firefighters.
There is something truly special about being part of a team that works together to protect our community.
Do you have any emergencies that stand out?
Knuttila: I have experienced a range of memorable moments—from routine calls to more unusual ones. I remember one time we were paged out to rescue a cat out of a tree. It was such a cliché
call that I had to confirm with our members that it was a real emergency.
Despite the lighthearted calls we receive, we take all calls seriously, and our team is always ready to respond to any situation.
What challenges have you had to overcome?
Knuttila: There has been a decline in the number of volunteers compared to previous years. This is partly due to the effects of the pandemic. In response, we have shifted our focus toward recruitment, retention and leadership replacement goals because we recognize the importance of maintaining a strong and committed team.
As a department, we have also adapted to the changing technological landscape, particularly in terms of new car designs. Electric cars present new challenges when it comes to cutting power to vehicles, and new vehicles also have additional airbags, which require more careful training to avoid setting them off if they haven’t been deployed.
Who has been a mentor to you as a firefighter?
Knuttila: I point to the entire team. Our shared commitment and dedication has made all the difference in the world.
As well, there is Chief Lawrence Arnold. For the past five years, Chief Arnold has taken me under his wing and guided me through the complex processes and procedures involved in firefighting and leading a department. His mentorship and support have been invaluable, and I am grateful for everything he has taught me.
What does the future hold for the department?
Knuttila: Looking ahead, our department has a strong vision for its growth. As chief, I dream of building a team of 20 skilled and dedicated individuals. We place a strong emphasis on training. We spend an average of three hours per week honing skills and building expertise.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Knuttila: We have established an automatic mutual aid agreement with the Grimshaw Fire Department, which ensures seamless coordination and support in times of need.
By working together and pooling our resources, we can provide even better emergency services to our communities.
If you are interested in volunteering with the department, reach out to the Village of Berwyn Office to obtain an application. Requirements for active firefighters include a minimum age of 18, a valid driver’s license and a clean criminal record check.
Article and photography by Nathan and Chelsey Friedt, Lemon Social