AUSTIN (KXAN) – Austin Fire Department Battalion Chief Travis Maher, 49, died Wednesday after a six-month bout of cancer, according to AFD.
Maher was with the Austin Fire Department for 23 years and also served as a Task Force Leader. He started working with the Task Force in 2001.
“Travis was an incredible man. First and foremost he is a father to his two sons and a husband,” said Brandon Wade, Assistant Chief with the AFD. “But he was also a colleague of ours… He again is one of the best that we have. He has served this community with immense honor and pride and made a difference in many people’s lives.”
After the attacks on Sept. 11, Maher went to the World Trade Center for a rescue and recovery effort. When he was diagnosed with stomach cancer as a 48-year-old otherwise physically healthy man, Maher’s doctor was confident his illness could be linked to his time in New York, according to the Texas Task Force Foundation.
Maher, unfortunately, is not alone. A study published in 2019 found that workers who went to the site of the Sept. 11 attacks to help the city recover were exposed to an array of toxins known to cause adverse health effects. The researcher’s analyses found that those workers are at an increased risk for prostate and thyroid cancers and leukemia.
“Firefighters are exposed as part of our job to the carcinogens that come with fires and the smoke that we’re in,” Wade said. When Maher went to New York, “he was taking that risk, but was doing it for the community and for people and trying to help them.”
“He was fully committed to that.”
Earlier this month, nearly 100 of Maher’s colleagues and friends walked with no headphones or distractions to honor his service and illness.
“We’re all walking united, and it’s basically just going to be a big family reunion,” said Robert Busby, Maher’s colleague and Fire Specialist with AFD, at the time. “(We’ll) enjoy our time together and reminisce about some good stories about Travis, some things we’ve been through and build some new relationships.”
“On top of just honoring this man is bringing awareness to what the risks of this job are and the heroes that were there that day. They did all they could to help,” Busby said at the time.