NAPLES, Italy — For the past three years, Petty Officer 1st Class David Sheehan has worked hard so that his co-workers don’t have to. The fire prevention specialist was recently recognized for his work by being named runner-up in the Navy’s Military Firefighter of the Year competition.

According to Naval Support Activity Naples Fire Chief John Morris, it’s unusual for a sailor in Sheehan’s position to earn the award.

“He’s competing against fleet guys who work in their rates in the ‘real world’ [of shipboard firefighting],” he said. “He’s just a shore guy on a base.”

This year’s firefighter of the year is Petty Officer 1st Class John A. Restrepo, aboard the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy.

Sheehan is the only sailor at the fire department, which also includes Department of Defense civilians and Italian firefighters.

“Typically, the only [shore-based] military firefighters are on Navy airfields riding crash trucks,” Morris said.

He is responsible for fire prevention inspections and education at all NSA Naples base facilities, on- and off-base housing areas and Naval Support Activity Gaeta, about 60 miles northwest of Naples.

“We provide public education for kids and … adults, both the civilian and military personnel assigned,” said Sheehan, an 18-year Navy veteran.

It becomes a challenge, he said, for Gaeta, which has no federal fire department. The small base relies on Sheehan for education and prevention and on the local city fire department for firefighting.

“We have a good working rapport with them,” Sheehan said about the Italian firefighters. “It’s a brotherhood.”

For example, the Gaeta fire department has brought its trucks and firefighting gear to display at the base school.

Sheehan’s work has led Naples to being under the Navy’s average for fire losses.

“We joke we’re victims of our success,” Morris said. “There’s not a lot of fires here because Dave’s out every day, walking around. He … sees things and then either makes sure it gets corrected or he’ll correct it on the spot.”

Sheehan was supposed to travel to Dallas this month to receive his award, but isn’t attending. Instead, he said, he’ll be at Aviano Air Base in northern Italy for advanced fire inspector training.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now