Posted 7/15/09 (Wed)
By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer
It takes a lot of time and hard work to be an emergency responder and because having a good emergency response team is vital to the community, each year McKenzie County awards one of its responders with the Responder of the Year award.
After 33 years of service to McKenzie County, Oscar Knudtson has been chosen as the 2009 McKenzie County Responder of the Year.
Knudtson began his career with the Watford City Fire Department 33 years ago when he was asked to join because he worked close to the fire department.
“Being a member of the fire department was the furthest thing from my mind,” says Knudtson. “But, at the time I worked close to the station and I was just out of college so I decided to give it a try. After my first few calls I realized that I really had a knack for it and I’ve enjoyed the job ever since.”
In 1981, Knudtson became fire chief, a position that he held for 20 years.
“My job in fire management with the U.S. Forest Service keeps me on the road a lot, so I’m not able to respond as much as I would like to,” comments Knudtson. “But, I still keep up with the training and spend as much time helping out as I can.”
Along with his fire department duties, Knudtson also serves on the McKenzie County Ambulance Squad and he’s state certified as a trainer for the fire department.
“I nominated Knudtson because he’s a longtime member and he knows what he’s doing,” states Ben Weltikol, Watford City fire chief. “Between his years of service and his knowledge, he’s a perfect fit for the Responder of the Year award.”
When it comes to fire and ambulance training, members are required to keep their training up to date, but Knudtson has gone above and beyond that by becoming a state certified trainer.
“We like to keep our training inhouse,” says Weltikol. “With Knudtson being state certified and willing to help us out with training, we’re able to do that.”
Knudtson feels that although there have been a lot of technology and equipment changes, the job itself is still the same today as it was 33 years ago when he started.
“I like the work,” comments Knudtson. “I guess it’s been a vocation. I keep thinking about cutting back or getting out of it, but I’m just not ready yet. I still have too much to offer.”
According to Knudtson, there’s a lot more to emergency response than most people realize. For the most part, people see emergency response as just responding when a call comes in. They don’t see the behind-the-scenes training coupled with the demands of the job or the way it cuts into a responder’s family or personal life.
“I’m proud to be a part of the McKenzie County Emergency Services,” states Knudtson. “It’s a great group of people to work with and I truly think every one of them deserves this award. They are a very dedicated group of people and McKenzie County is lucky to have them.”
With 33 years of service and the Emergency Responder of the Year award behind him, Knudtson doesn’t see himself slowing down anytime soon.
“I was surprised to receive this award, but it was nice to be recognized for doing something that I really enjoy,” says Knudtson. “I plan to keep going with the flow as long as I’m healthy and able.”