KOTA KINABALU: It will be a triple celebration for Agustavia Joe Guasi this month as she will not only be celebrating her birthday on National Day but also her appointment as the first woman fire station chief in Sabah.
The 37-year-old from Kampung Nalapak, Ranau, a remote village in the foothills of the Crocker Range, created history when she was named head of the Lintas station here on Aug 1.
The mother of four never imagined such an achievement when she joined the Fire and Rescue Department as a recruit in 2001.
“I only wanted to have a career, so I immediately applied when there was an opening at the department. I never planned to be a firefighter.
“But I grew to love the job after I got in and it feels right with my soul.
“This is one of the best moments of my life and I will never forget it,” she told FMT.
Agustavia, the third of seven siblings from a Dusun family, spoke of the pressure accompanying her new position, especially in a field traditionally dominated by men.
“At first I was worried that I would not be up to the task as a station chief, particularly as I am the first female to hold the position in Sabah,” she said.
“But it must be the hope of the department and highest management to see me succeed in this job. I don’t intend to let them down.”
Before her promotion, she said, she mostly followed orders and carried out routine assignments.
“But as a senior officer, I am now responsible for ensuring that those under me execute their duties according to procedure,” said Agustavia, who was formerly with the Sabah fire operations centre.
“I also need to equip myself with the knowledge to match my male counterparts.
“And as a mother, I have to think about my children and family, who I cannot abandon. But I understand the sacrifices I have to make to carry out my duties.”
She has promised herself that she will do her best, and is sure of plenty of support and guidance along the way.
“I will have encouragement and support from my state director, deputy director and other station chiefs who will motivate me to do my best.”
She is also banking on her 18 years of experience in being a firefighter, which has seen her participation in missions related to floods, draughts and even the 2015 earthquake in her hometown of Ranau.
She told FMT the quake rescue mission was by far her most difficult task.
She hopes her experience will inspire others, especially women, to sign up as firefighters. But she does not make light of the challenges and sacrifices that this entails.
“It is not as easy as just putting on the uniform. You need to be prepared mentally as well as physically to do the job.
“It’s a high-risk job. While some women fear fires, some women simply learn to control it.”