Evan Mullen, a 2022 graduate of Titusville High School and the Venango Technology Center, recently competed in the Skills USA national finals in Atlanta, Georgia. Mullen competed against 37 other students from all over the country in the firefighting program.
He was matter of fact about his state and regional wins that allowed him to represent the state of Pennsylvania in the competition. And he says it is indicative of a bigger problem.
"It was me and this other kid from Rocky Grove," he said about his regional gold medal. "He could school me on the physical stuff, but I scored high on the knowledge end." Only two young men competing in the competition regionally and both from Venango Technology Center.
Granted not all vocational schools in the area offer firefighting in their curriculum, but that too is also a problem according to Mullen.
At the state level he competed against only five others and he said the same thing there. "There were kids there with higher certifications," he said explaining he is certified to fight fire externally, but not enter a burning structure as yet.
At nationals there were more, but only 27 of the 50 states were represented.
He said the competition was fun and he learned a lot and his raining at VTC, volunteering for Cherrytree VFD and working closely on his skills with Oil City firefighter Eric McFadden really got him prepared to win states and compete well in Atlanta.
"I hope anyone who wants to enter Skills USA does what I did and work with (McFadden),” he said.
Mullen's path to firefighting began after attending the Pennsylvania State Police summer program Camp Cadet. He signed up for VTC’s Protective Services program wanting to be a police officer. His dad Jeff encouraged him to join the Cherrytree VFD to serve and be active.
A version of this story first appeared in The Titusville Herald on June 28, 2022.
Mullen is concerned for the future of firefighting stating fewer and fewer people are signing up. Even in the classroom he said the firefighter section is one of the smallest.
“It would be nice to see more people get involved in volunteer fire departments,” he said. “It is really needed, (the profession) is dying.”
He added that there is more to being a member of a fire department than just fighting fires. Volunteers are needed for many taks including fundraising, support and upkeep of the department, fire police etc... "There are so many jobs that need to be done and we need more people."
In the navy he will be a damage control man which firefighting is definitely included in his duties. He will be a sort of master of all trades aboard a ship that has to know just about every system and more importantly, know how to fix it.
“I am super proud of both kids, said Bob Moore the Skills USA supervisor. “They went and did their job and they were profession the whole time they were there.”
Woolcock, who plans to go to Penn College for welding engineering, said his instructor Travis Crate has been instrumental in pushing him to learn more and more. He said being able to figure out when something goes wrong is key saying when he struggled to learn something, he eventually became even better at it than things that came easy.
“I would like to say the only reason I’m here where I am today is because of Mr. Crate and the Good Lord,”
She credits her teacher Kristen Deets for really helping her get where sh has. She plans to continue working in her mom’s shop Chelby’s Hair Garage in Townville and maybe take some more continuing ed classes in the future. “She has worked really hard for this, We’re just so proud of her,” her mom said.
“I was very proud to represent Pennsylvania in the national competition,” Trista said.