Nick Lawrence, Westside High School
Westside junior Mike Mullens dons a football uniform in the all, but off the field, he wears another uniform: that of a junior firefighter.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Many know him as Westside's no. 30, who totaled 1,654 rushing yards, 19 touchdowns and 120 points this football season; however, 17-year-old Mike Mullens is also a junior firefighter for Station 300 in Oceana."I've always had an interest in the fire department since I was a little kid, and I wanted to be a part of my community," said Mullens, who at age 16, made the courageous commitment to his community to serve on the Oceana Volunteer Fire Department.He has worked there for a little more than a year, and in that time, he has received the Outstanding Service Award."It's an adrenaline rush," he said of the job. "You start thinking of the things you've been trained on that would benefit the call. It's fearful, exciting and serious. It's just a one-of-a-kind feeling with many emotions that go through you all at once."
According to the National Fire Protection Association, an estimated 1,148,100 firefighters work in the United States. Of that number, only 335,950 get paid. Three percent are junior firefighters, ages 16-19.
Mullens explained some of the differences between firefighters and junior firefighters: "Junior firefighters aren't allowed to enter burning buildings or use the heavy equipment tools, but just because you can't go inside a house fire or use the jaws of life, you still have important roles to play."Most people think as a junior firefighter, you don't help out much, but you still really do a lot -- just nothing huge."Being part of such an important job in your community, he said, "You need to go into it willing to learn as much as you possibly can. You will learn a lot about being a firefighter, and depending on the members of your fire department, you will learn a lot about life also."If you think you would like to be part of your local volunteer fire department, schedule a visit to meet with the captain and he will give you the information you need to know about joining. Remember, firefighting isn't an easy job, and it definitely isn't the safest job out there. It also requires lots of volunteer time.You can go to www.volunteerfd.org/become-a-volunteer-firefighter
to find out how to become one as well as a lot more information that you may need to know.