TASK FORCE 294

THE TRAVIS POWELL STORY

What is Task Force 294?  In firefighting, a Task Force is any combination of resources assembled to address a particular tactical need.  Our tactical need is twofold.  First, is the Emotional, Family, and Financial support of Sedona Firefighter Travis Powell #294 and his Family.  Second, is to bring awareness to the growing epidemic of firefighters with cancer from the workplace.  Travis has Cancer, and his job as a Firefighter is the reason he has it.  This is his story and how you can help!

Travis began his Fire Service career as a Reserve Firefighter for the Chino Valley Fire District in 1996.  In 2001, he was hired as a full time career Firefighter with the Sedona Fire District.  During his 13 years with Sedona Fire, Travis has not only served as a front line Firefighter and Emergency Medical Technician, he has also been heavily involved the departments Wild Fire program.  Travis has fought numerous Wild Fires both in and around the State of Arizona as well as responding nationally to assist firefighters in other States.

In October of 2012 Travis had been experiencing pain in his abdomen and chest.  Travis is only 44 years old.  Knowing that his annual department physical was coming up, he elected to wait to bring up his concerns with the doctor at that time.  During the physical it was discovered that his spleen was swollen to 4 times larger than his liver.  On October 12, 2012 Travis was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), a type of cancer that starts from white blood cells in the bone marrow. It then invades the blood.  The particular type of CLL which Travis has is a rare and aggressive type.

On October 14, 2012 Travis began chemotherapy to treat his cancer.  Travis spent 30 days at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Cancer Center undergoing treatment.  Travis then returned home and started outpatient treatment in Prescott Valley.  One night, Travis noticed a small black mark on his upper gum.  Travis had an appointment to see his doctor in the morning, so he decided he would be fine to go to sleep and bring it up then.  In the morning however, the infection had spread so quickly that his entire mouth and gums were completely black and he had become gravely sick.  Travis was taken to Yavapai Regional Medical Center where he spent several days in the ICU.  Travis was then taken back to Scottsdale Shea where he underwent intense antibiotic treatments.  The antibiotics were so powerful that it took him 100 days just recover from their effects on his body systems.

In January of 2014 after months of intense chemotherapy and antibiotic regimes, Travis cancer was deemed to be in remission and he immediately began working to return to full duty as Firefighter in Sedona.  January 11, 2014 was his first day back on the rig.

 On May 20, 2014 just a few months after returning to duty The Slide Fire broke out in Oak Creek Canyon.  Travis was off duty that day, however, when the department “All Call” went out he quickly returned and immediately engaged in fire suppression as well as evacuating hundreds of residents and tourists from the fast moving fire.  Travis was ultimately assigned to work the fire in an extended capacity.  One night while working the fire, Travis felt a familiar pain in his abdomen.  It was the same pain he felt when his spleen had been found enlarged and his cancer was first discovered.  At that moment Travis knew his cancer had returned!

Travis completed his assignment on the fire, and went to his doctor where it was confirmed that his cancer had returned, and returned with a vengeance.  A high white blood cell count is between 8 and 10 thousand, Travis white cell count was 30 thousand.  Doctors proposed a bone marrow transplant as the only way to save Travis Life, and hopefully a cure.

A search began, and it was soon learned that Travis sister is a 10 out of 10 match to be a bone marrow donor.  Because of this, Travis will return to Scottsdale Shea Cancer Center on August 27, 2014.  Travis will undergo a week of intensive chemotherapy to completely wipe out his immune system and kill off all his white blood cells.  Travis will be quarantined from everyone, including his own family for at least the next month.  This is to protect Travis from infection, as he will have no immune system and any exposure could kill him.

During this same time his sister will start a regime to increase her bone marrow production, which will be a painful process for her.  Over the course of two days Travis will receive his sister’s bone marrow.  Unlike other transplants where the recipient’s body can reject the transplanted organ, in the case of bone marrow transplants, the bone marrow could actually reject Travis. 

After Travis is released from quarantine, he will need to live in very close proximity to Scottsdale Shea in the event he becomes sick.  He will also require full time in home care, which his wife is receiving training for so she can be his care taker.

Travis is believed to be the first Firefighter in the State of Arizona who has successfully had his cancer declared work place related and received benefits for his care by the State Compensation Fund.  Travis credits this to the volumes of documentation that Sedona Fire was able to provide on all the fires, hazardous incidents, and exposures he had over the course of his 13 years.  Travis wife and coworkers also worked tirelessly to file all the required documentation with the State.

 There will still be huge financial burdens for the Powell family however.  In addition to his wife Laura being Travis in home care taker, Laura is also going to homeschool their 8 year old son Tristan and 5 year old daughter Chyler.  As a result, the Powell’s need to rent a residence in the Scottsdale area for about 6 months so they can spend as much time together as a family as possible.  His children have been forced to grow up way to fast as a result of Travis illness.  Both Tristan and Chyler enjoy participating in gymnastics, jujitsu, and playing soccer.

This is where Task Force 294 comes in.  Task Force 294 has partnered with The Sedona Verde Valley Firefighters Charities, the 501c3 organization made up of operational firefighters from the Verde Valley area; The Sedona Chamber of Commerce, and The Sedona Marathon Event.  Sedona Firefighters Marc Howard, Jessica Waltenburg, Marcus Koistinen, Jonathan Scaife, and Jeremy Lilly will complete the 2015 Sedona Marathon in FULL structural firefighting turnout gear including air pack.  The gear weighs about 70lbs.  Task Force 294 is seeking individual and corporate sponsorships, with all donations going to the Sedona Verde Valley Firefighters Charities, Travis Powell / TF 294 Fund.  All proceeds will go directly to relieving the financial burdens of the Powell family as well as fund activities for his children to be involved in to aid in their physical and emotional well-being.

To Donate please visit Sedona Verde Valley Firefighter Charitieshttp://svvfc.com/task-force-294/  

TF 294 T-shirts are available!! Contact: Amy Zale at 928 254-9833 

Find us on Facebook at - https://www.facebook.com/svvfc

Sedona Marathon Eventhttp://www.sedonamarathon.com/task-force-294.html

Sedona Chamber of Commercehttp://sedonachamber.com/

FIREFIGHTERS – Wear your PPE, Clean your PPE and Yourself after every fire/exposure, and participate in annual physical/medical evaluations.

For more information on Firefighters and Cancer explore the following links:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/05/21/firefighter-high-cancer-rates/9368443/

http://www.wptv.com/news/region-c-palm-beach-county/west-palm-beach/hidden-dangers-of-firefighting

http://firefighterfactsnj.org/cancer-risks

http://www.usfa.fema.gov/fireservice/firefighter_health_safety/health_fitness/cancer.shtm

THE MALTESE CROSS

When a courageous band of crusaders known as the Knights of St. John, fought the Saracens for possession of the holy land, they encountered a new weapon unknown to European warriors. It was a simple, but a horrible device of war; it wrought excruciating pain and agonizing death upon the brave fighters for the cross. The Saracen's weapon was fire.

As the crusaders advanced on the walls of the city, they were struck by glass bombs containing naphtha. When they became saturated with the highly flammable liquid, the Saracens hurled a flaming torch into their midst. Hundreds of the knights were burned alive; others risked their lives to save their brothers-in-arms from dying painful, fiery deaths.

Thus, these men became our first firefighter and the first of a long list of courageous firefighters. Their heroic efforts were recognized by fellow crusaders who awarded each a badge of honor - a cross similar to the one firefighter's wear today. Since the Knights of St. John lived for close to four centuries on a little island in the Mediterranean Sea named Malta, the cross came to be known as the Maltese Cross.

The Maltese Cross is your symbol of protection. It means that the firefighter who wears this cross is willing to lay down his life for you just as the crusaders sacrificed their lives for their fellow man so many years ago. The Maltese Cross is a firefighter's badge of honor, signifying that he works in courage - a ladder rung away from death.

The Task Force 294 Maltese, in addition to symbolizing the courage and honor of all Firefighters, has special symbolism.  The large “T” and “F” are abbreviated for Task Force, the number “294”, Firefighter Powell’s badge number with Sedona Fire, and the color orange along with the ribbon bearing Firefighter Powell’s name is for Leukemia Awareness.