FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (7News) — Tuesday marked the final farewell for Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Captain Kimberly Schoppa, who died last month from occupational cancer.
Her line-of-duty funeral included a procession and escort to the church, with her flag-draped casket onboard a fire truck and then carried inside by the Honor Guard.
"As I followed the procession and I saw all those lining the street and being part of the procession, I'm reminded that these are friends of Kim, and those who loved and worked with her," Chief John Butler told 7News.
Schoppa was hired as a firefighter in 2004 and served with the department for more than 18 years.
Captain Scoppa was assigned to Fire Station 27 in West Springfield at the time of her death. That's where Engine 427 was named in her honor on Monday, with her name now stamped onto the passenger's side door of the truck she rode in so often while on the job.
That fire truck bearing her name was also part of the procession on Tuesday.
The emotional ceremony and tributes are intended to highlight Captain Schoppa's service and sacrifice. Schoppa's passing from work-related cancer has been officially declared a line-of-duty death.
"It's very hard to put into words the emotions we feel," Butler said. "We're seeing our colleagues across the nation in the fire service succumb to carcinogens and cancer at a younger age than the normal community. We know what we got into when we took this profession, but it's always so heart wrenching to see one of our own succumb to an injury or illness such as cancer."
According to the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, cancer is a leading cause of death among firefighters, who can be exposed to "hundreds of different chemicals in the form of gases, vapors, and particulates", some of which are known or suspected to cause cancer.
Schoppa was diagnosed with ovarian cancer on March 31 of 2021.
"She did active chemotherapy and multiple surgeries for a year. Doctors were surprised she would live that long. Most people aren't on active chemo for a year, but she was so strong. Mentally and physically, just so strong," said Deputy Chief Tracey Reed.
Reed was one of Schoppa's closest friends, and spoke to 7News last month on the day she passed away.
"We met in recruit school, so we started in July of 2004. And she was just such a hard worker, she constantly smiled," Reed said. "She was always there for other people."
That message was reiterated during her funeral service on Tuesday.
"Each of you is here today because in your own special way, your life has been positively impacted by her," said the chaplain who led the service.
One of Captain Schoppa's closest friends also spoke during the service, calling her a "natural leader", detail-oriented, organized, and a "phenomenal athlete".
That friend also offered an important takeaway about how Schoppa was meant to be a firefighter.
"What do you do when you're good at everything? You become a professional firefighter. A profession that was the perfect fit for Kim, because she was able to use her immense talents and physical gifts to go out and help people who were having the worst day of their lives," she said.
Fairfax County Fire & Rescue provided this video of Captain Schoppa's funeral service:
In addition to her firefighting family, Schoppa leaves behind her wife, who is a retired Fairfax County firefighter, along with her parents, siblings, and a large extended family.
"The department would want Kim to be remembered as she lived. She had high standards, professional excellence, and she had high degree of integrity and wanted the best for herself and those around her. I personally felt better and stronger and more knowledgeable when I was around her," said Chief Butler. "She was very down-to-earth and relatable, while still being a quintessential professional."