Firefighters from across Virginia and beyond are expected to gather at the Fredericksburg Expo Center Tuesday for a memorial service for Mia Etheridge.
The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va.
Sep. 8—Firefighters from across Virginia and beyond are expected to gather at the Fredericksburg Expo Center Tuesday for a memorial service for one of their own.
Mia Ethridge, 20, died on Saturday as a result of injuries received in a line-of-duty accident. She had been working as a firefighter and EMT in Louisa County for four months on July 9, when she and another firefighter were responding to a call in inclement weather, according to police reports.
The fire truck went off the road and hit a tree, and Ethridge was ejected. She suffered serious injuries, according to Louisa County, and was flown to UVA University Hospital for treatment.
Firefighters from Louisa and Stafford County, where Ethridge lived, trained and continued to volunteer, were by her side from the time she was in hospital until her body was brought home earlier this week, said Capt. Gustavo Leite.
He was among those who trained her at the Stafford Volunteer Recruit Academy in 2020, and worked with her when she volunteered at Co. 2 in Stafford.
“She always had a positive outlook, no matter what happened,” Leite said, recalling the bright and cheerful student who sat in the front row and had a smile on her face and an answer to almost every question.
She quickly became class leader, encouraging other females in the male-dominated profession and being a shoulder to lean on to anyone who needed it, he said.
“Somebody like that, there was no stopping her,” the captain added.
Leite and others watched as Ethridge recovered from the accident to the point she was able to enter a rehabilitation facility. He took his service dog, a German shepherd named Chase, to see her there one day.
“He made a beeline for her, and she was smiling and she was happy, and that was a really positive thing,” Leite said.
Firefighters assumed the worst was behind Ethridge and that she’d beaten what seemed like insurmountable odds, but then she succumbed to her injuries. Louisa County officials asked that no other details be given.
Because Ethridge was so young and died in the line of duty, Stafford and Louisa officials expect a large turnout for her memorial service on Tuesday. They selected the Expo Center to accommodate the crowd as well as the ladder trucks, fire engines and rescue squads they’ll bring with them.
The service begins at 1 p.m. and a livestream will be provided on social media channels of Louisa Fire and EMS, Stafford County Fire and Rescue and Stafford Volunteer Fire Department.
Firefighters, and Ethridge’s family, already have witnessed the outpouring of support from what Leite called the “brotherhood and sisterhood” of firefighters. Earlier this week, the Stafford department announced that it would be providing an escort for the hearse that would carry her body from Richmond to the funeral home.
The Facebook post encouraged anyone interested to “stand by along the route to show your love and support for our sister.”
There were fire trucks, rescue squads or police vehicles at almost every overpass along Interstate 95, Leite said, from Richmond to Massaponax.
“It was absolutely beautiful and extremely emotional for those of us in the procession,” he said.
Fire and rescue units from Caroline, Hanover, Henrico, Louisa, Spotsylvania and Stafford counties as well as the cities of Fredericksburg and Richmond joined law enforcement units from Louisa County, Richmond and the Virginia State Police.
In a Facebook post, the Louisa Police Department expressed condolences to Ethridge’s family and the community.
“She made a significant impact on anyone she crossed paths with,” the post stated. “LPD will dearly miss her professionalism and personality from mutual shared calls for service.”
A post from the Stafford Volunteer Fire Department noted Ethridge’s family had donated her organs.
“She will storm the gates of heaven with her bright-eyed smile and spitfire self after she gives the gift of life,” it stated. “She will be the biggest sunbeam we see on all beautiful days.”
Leite said younger members of the fire department, who hadn’t experienced a loss in their own family much less the death of a young firefighter in a line-of-duty incident, were struggling. He’s told them to share memories of her life and laughter, not of the accident that claimed her.
“She’s still with us,” he said. “We’re never gonna forget her.”
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425
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