Mothering the tougher job shares Sabah's first female fire station Chief

By Natasha Sim | Parents Avenue’s Writer | Photos courtesy of Agustavia Joe Guasi

Agustavia Joe Guasi made national headlines recently on her appointment as the first woman in Sabah to head a fire station. And to our excitement, the 37-year-old also revealed that she was a proud mother to three boys and one girl! 

Not only does she put herself on the line when  extinguishing fires, participating in flood relief operations and dangerous rescue missions; she’s also raising four cubs! 

We at Parents Avenue couldn’t pass on the opportunity to get to know this real super momma. So, we sat down with her for a little chit chat and listened to what she had to share. 

Mothering is the tougher job

The dedicated firefighter was even part of Ops Gempa Bumi, a rescue operation that saw her and her squad responding to the 6.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Ranau in 2015.

But she revealed that “mothering is definitely still the more challenging job” compared to leading a team of 37 firefighters at Lintas Fire Station.

She shared that it likely stems from the feeling that as a parent, you only want the best for your kids. “As a mom, my children will always be my main focus.”

That isn’t to say that she is less dedicated to her career. In fact, her show of commitment towards her role as a firefighter is how she teaches her children motivation and dedication.

“As a parent, I understand that my children learn from not just what I tell them, but from what I do and how I act as well.”“If they see that I bersemangat, they will feel the same way too,” she said.

Nurturing spirit at work 

In a way, Agustavia ‘mothers’ her team at the fire station too. “As a leader, I want to make sure that I am able to help all my team members build up their careers,” she said.

In addition, Puan Abby, as she’s known at her fire station, ensures that all staff are disciplined individuals especially considering their position as part of Malaysia’s uniformed forces.  

She mentioned that she’s especially understanding of the four women in her team, being a woman herself. 

“Before when I was in their position, some of my higher ups would tease me for being a woman you know, since work would often involve real physical labour.”

“They would tell me ‘who asked you to join the bomba‘,” she said with a smile.

But with the women at her workplace, Agustavia does understand the physical constraints that can make heavy labour difficult for females sometimes.

“In fact I encourage the girls to join missions often and be at the front line. But I look at where their limits are at too. In those situations, I delegate them to administrative tasks. It really is about rotating all members fairly to the different day-to-day tasks.”

“I want the best for my staff, and it’s the same for my children,” she said. 

“My biggest worry actually is for the safety and lives of my staff. Being a firefighter… things can get unpredictable and you just never know sometimes.”

Mummy, the hero 

“Actually my boys are really immune to the fact that I’m a firefighter. Which is funny because when I pick the youngest boy from school in my uniform, his schoolmates may sometimes run up to me and hug me. I’ve had other kids call me their ‘hero’,” she laughingly said.

In these situations, her boy would usually just brush off the situation with a sideways glance.

On the other hand, Agustavia’s little girl is super proud of her firefighting mummy. She will be the one to ask her mum how her day went and so on.

“After work, my girl would be very interested in what I did during the day and if I was involved in any ‘exciting’ missions. Basically I have to report my cases to her,” says Agustavia. 

Agustavia also said her daughter would frequently tell her friends about her mum’s so-called adventures to her friends. It’s a situation which Agustavia finds humour in. 

abby5

Challenges of being at the frontline 

However, being chief firefighter does have its drawbacks sometimes. 

“My kids will often tell me to be careful before I leave for work,” she said.  

Agustavia being at the frontline of fire and rescue missions can definitely be a scary thing for her youngest two kids, aged 7 and 9, respectively. 

During Ops Gempa, she had to go days without direct communication with her family due to being stationed in the jungle with no phone signal. 

So much so, the entire family made the drive to Ranau to visit her on-site during that period of time. 

Meanwhile, at home her kids would often ask her to put down her phone when at home when she’s actually replying to important messages or delegating tasks through WhatsApp.

And she would have to show them case photos and explain to them exactly what she’s doing for them to relax.

abby4

“Being a firefighter has made me tougher”

“People have asked me before about how I’ve changed so much after I started my career with the Fire & Rescue Department,” she said. 

“I tell them that it’s probably because of all the rigorous training I went through.” 

She also attributes the mentally challenging and physically strenuous demands from being a firefighter as something that has built her resilience. 

Agustavia added too that working towards her promotion as Head of the station was a way for her to challenge her own capabilities.

“I wasn’t keen at first but my superiors really gave me the support to go for it.”

And she did it. She recalled her oldest son giving her a long speech detailing how proud he was of her achievement becoming Lintas Fire Station chief. 

“Before this, I was skinny. I was quite feminine too and to others, it didn’t really seem that I was fit for the job,” she said.

But after a while, she grew to love being a firefighter. It’s been 18 years since she joined her department. 

“Maybe because I’m in a male-dominated environment as well. So, I cut my hair short to be able to work better with the physical demands.”

“That does not mean that I still don’t like to bergaya once in awhile though. I still like to wear my heels when the situation calls for it,” she said.

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