James City County firefighter Capt. James Blanchard, who died in 2004, will be honored in the 15th annual Virginia Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service on Saturday at Richmond Raceway Complex.
The event, which begins at noon in the Old Dominion Building, honors six firefighters who died in the line of duty or have been recognized by the Virginia Line of Duty Act in the past year. The Line of Duty Act Fund was established in 2010 as a funding source for benefits.
Blanchard, known as “Ernie,” died from a massive heart attack on June 11, 2004 while on a break from work, said Bob Ryalls, spokesman for the James City County Fire Department. His heart condition was attributed to years of exposure to severe heat, smoke and stress as a firefighter.
Prior to becoming a firefighter, Blanchard served as a tank commander with the 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam. He was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Blanchard joined the JCFD in 1976 as a lieutenant at Grove Station #2. He spent the majority of his career at that station, and was eventually promoted to Captain. Ryalls said he “took a strong interest in the community he served,” and produced public service videos for the department.
The other fallen firefighters to be honored are Firefighter David Palmer of Roanoke Fire-EMS, Lieutenant William Brady of Norfolk Fire-Rescue, Battalion Chief Bobbie Slayton of Roanoke Fire-EMS, Firefighter Jeffery Cocke of Altavista Fire Department and Firefighter Horace Pendergrass of Fairfax County Fire & Rescue. The memorial will also honor the memory of all Virginia firefighters who have given their lives in service of Virginians.
The service will include a keynote address by Dr. Denis Onieal, superintendent of the National Fire Academy; a Virginia Fire Services Honor Guard procession featuring the Saint Andrew’s Legion Pipes and Drums; a musical performance by Susan Greenbaum; and a fire apparatus display from fire departments across the state.
Secretary of Public Safety Marla Decker will present state flags that have been flown above the Capitol to the families of the fallen.
The families will travel in a police-escorted motorcade from the Springhill Suites Richmond Virginia Center on Brook Road to the Richmond International Raceway Complex.
The service will be broadcast via live feed, starting at 11:30 a.m., here. Both the service and a subsequent reception are open to the public. For more information, contact Mark Buff at (804) 249-1965 or click here.