June 22, 2024

Alumnus Travis McGaha Founds Nonprofit for Firefighters Facing Cancer

Travis McGaha of Concord, North Carolina, saw a need to support firefighters facing cancer. In order to provide more resources for his brothers and sisters in service, he and some comrades founded The North Carolina Firefighter Cancer Alliance.

“Myself and another firefighter from Greensboro were working with a national cancer organization and saw a need to address the issues here in our home state,” he said. “One day during our annual Midwinters Fire Chiefs conference, we decided to set up our own nonprofit so we could have a mechanism that would allow us to aid firefighters facing occupational cancer.”

“Through our efforts, and the support of many chiefs and brilliant people, we are now have a statewide no-cost peer support and counseling program for firefighters facing cancer,” he said. “At the same time, we have been developing a curriculum to educate firefighters on the dangers of contamination of firefighting gear and how this relates to cancer in the fire service.”

One of the developments that resulted from the North Carolina Firefighter Cancer Alliance is the Concord Decontamination Model. This nationally recognized standard demonstrates best practices for decontamination and processing and is used in departments across the nation, including the National Fire Academy.

McGaha earned his bachelor’s degree in fire administration from CSU in 2015. He currently serves as the deputy fire marshal for the Concord Fire Department.

“I was in a series of entry-level jobs and once I identified a career path in the fire department I started working toward it,” he said. “What lit my fire to pursue my degree was when one of my managers in a former job told me I was worthless without a degree. I was determined to make myself better and prove that it is possible to excel once you have motivation and a plan of how to do it.”

McGaha now sits on the operational board of the Cancer Alliance and works as the compliance officer assisting in the development of educational programs.

“Our organization is in a growth phase now preparing to start offering online cancer prevention classes,” he said. “We are also working with the North Carolina Community College system in making our information available to all rookie firefighters who train through them, as well as for veteran firefighters.”

McGaha attributes the support of his peers in the fire service, as well as the education he received from CSU to the success he found in his career and with the Cancer Alliance.

“Unlike many people I know who have a degree but never use what they were trained in, I use the technical information I received from my education every day,” he said. “My education is more than checking a box on an application. CSU allowed me to pull myself up from being an unskilled worker to the place I am now with a rewarding career and respect from my peers.”

Disclaimer: These testimonials may not reflect the experience of all CSU students.
Multiple factors, including prior experience, geography, and degree field, affect career outcomes.
CSU does not guarantee a job, promotion, salary increase, eligibility for a position, or other career growth.