YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — A 17-year firefighting veteran of U.S. Naval Forces Japan will be awarded the Fire Department Medal of Valor for saving the lives of two Japanese citizens in July.

Crew Chief Akihito Sato, 40, will be presented the medal Friday during an 8:45 a.m. ceremony in front of U.S. Naval Forces Japan headquarters, Building C-1.

Rear Adm. Robert C. Chaplin will pin the medal on Sato after receiving it from Fire Chief Bruce Goodwin, said Julie Thixton, fire department regional technical services chief.

“This is the first one we’ve presented here that I’m aware of,” Thixton said of the medal. “It’s presented for an extreme heroic act.”

Sato is being recognized for rescuing the two Japanese from a burning home the morning of July 12. While going to work at Yokosuka’s Taura Fire Station, he saw flames coming from a home in the Zushi-Hayama residential area. Two people were on the home’s second floor.

Borrowing a ladder from a neighboring home, Sato helped the couple to the ground before Japanese firefighters could arrive.

“We’re extremely proud of him, and he’s an asset to our department,” Thixton said. Sato “definitely deserves” the Medal of Valor, she said. “He went above and beyond the call of duty to stop and help these people.”

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