KOTA KINABALU: Agustavia Joe Guasi is the epitome of the phrase "anything a man can do, a woman can do too".
The 37-year-old from Ranau was promoted as Lintas fire station chief on Aug 1, making her the first woman in Sabah to hold such a position.
She was brought up by her grandparents at Kampung Nalapak and used to help them in the orchard.
She attributed her childhood "kampung" lifestyle in building her resilience.
As a firefighter for 18 years, not only did she brave disasters like fires and floods, but the iron-willed lady also carried on with her training while she was six months pregnant with her third child.
“It was in 2010, when I was required to undergo training at the firefighters academy in Kuala Kubu Baru to gain promotion from KB17 to KB29.
“I was six months pregnant, and they asked if I wanted to continue or postpone it; I said I might as well go with it, as I will have a baby to tend to later.
“So, I followed the rest, entering forests, doing compass exercises and mapping the coordinates.
“The training took three months and by the time I got back, I went straight to maternity leave, ” she told The Star.
Although she loves challenging activities, Agustavia revealed she has not always planned to be a firefighter.
In fact, her foray into this career was because she had applied for several jobs, and this was the first one offered.
It was also during the period when Sabah started intake for women in the Fire and Rescue Department back in 2001.
“I remember there were nine women out of 119 cadets in my batch training at the Penampang fire station; there’s another batch intake at Sipitang at that time, too.
“I literally have no idea what being a firefighter means, more than just putting out fires.
“Then, I underwent the trainings and I fell in love with it. In fact, women were not given any special treatment, instead we were expected to do heavy lifting like men, as we need to be fitter, ” she said, adding that passing physical tests were a requirement.
Agustavia admitted that her job has amused families and friends, who asked her why she opted for it.
“They said ‘I thought you wanted to go to nursing’, which was one of the other jobs I applied.
“But I am thankful for the opportunity to be in this department and there is satisfaction from getting recognition from the community for the good job we do.
“My husband, who helps run a family homestay in Luanti, Ranau, was also worried at first, but he saw my determination and just reminded me to be careful at work, ” she added.
Agustavia, who was a senior officer at the Sabah headquarters operation centre before being promoted to fire station chief, said among the major operations she was part of are Ops Gempa Bumi at Mount Kinabalu, Ranau, in 2015, the Beaufort massive flood in 2012, and Ops Kemarau in Binsuluk in 2015.
Asked if she has anything special planned for her birthday - which falls on the National Day (Aug 31) - the mother of four said she will celebrate it as usual with her family.
“This year, I am not involved in the Merdeka parade, so I would be able to spend more time with them, ” said Agustavia.