KOTA KINABALU: Agustavia Joe Guasi is the epitome of the phrase “What a man can do, a woman can do, too”.
The 37-year-old originally from Ranau, on the foothills of Mount Kinabalu, was officially promoted as Lintas fire station chief on Aug 1, making her the first woman in Sabah to hold such a position.
She attributed this to her childhood kampung lifestyle where she was brought up by her grandparents in Kampung Nalapak.
She added that she was used to helping them out at the orchard and this had built her resilience.
As a firefighter for 18 years, not only did she brave disasters such as fires and floods, 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 do training at the firefighters academy in Kuala Kubu Baru in Selangor to gain promotion from KB17 to KB29.
“I was six months pregnant and they asked whether I would like to continue or postpone it.
“I said I might as well go with it as I will have a baby to tend 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 did not plan to be a firefighter.
In fact, her foray as a firefighter came about as it was the first of her many applications that was not rejected.
Incidentally, it was also the first time Sabah started to accept women in the Fire and Rescue Department back in 2001.
“I will not forget that I was one of the nine women out of 119 cadets in my batch training at the Penampang fire station and there was also another batch at Sipitang that time, too.
“I literally had no idea that being a firefighter means more than just putting out fires.
“When I attended the training sessions, I fell in love with it.
“In fact, all the women were not given any special treatment as we were expected to do the same heavy lifting like men.
“As such, we had to get ourselves to be just as fit, ” she said, adding that it was compulsory to pass the physical tests.
Agustavia admitted that her job amused many of her family members and friends.
“They said ‘I thought you wanted to go into nursing’, which was one of the jobs I applied for.
“But I am thankful to be given this opportunity and there is satisfaction we get from the community for the good job we do.
“My husband, who helps to run a family homestay in Luanti, Ranau, was worried at first but when he saw my determination, he would just remind 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 were the Ops Gempa Bumi at Mount Kinabalu in 2015, the massive flood that hit Beaufort in 2012 and Ops Kemarau in Binsuluk in 2015.
When asked whether she has anything special to celebrate her birthday, which falls on Aug 31, and her promotion, the mother of four said she would celebrate it like always – with her family.
“As I am not involved in the Merdeka parade this year, I will be able to spend more time with my family, ” Agustavia said.