Australia fires: Pregnant firefighter defends decision to fight fires

By Yvette Tan
BBC News

Media caption,
Kat Robinson-Williams says she wants to keep serving her community

A 23-year-old pregnant volunteer firefighter has fiercely defended her decision to fight dangerous bushfires that have swept across Australia.

Kat Robinson-Williams, who is 14 weeks pregnant, said she received many appeals from worried friends to stop.

It prompted a powerful post from her on Instagram where she said she would not "just stay behind".

Ms Robinson-Williams has been volunteering with the New South Wales (NSW) Rural Fire Service for 11 years.

"I'm not the first pregnant firefighter and I'm not going to be the last one," she told the BBC. "I'm still in a position where I'm able to help so I will."

Australia is enduring a bushfire crisis that has left three people dead since Friday and burnt more than 200 homes.

Image source, Kat Robinson-Williams
Image caption,
Kat Robinson-Williams is the third generation in a family of volunteer firefighters

'I don't care if you don't like it'

Ms Robinson-Williams first posted on Instagram on Monday, putting up several pictures of herself in firefighting gear on the way to an incident.

The post was captioned: "Yes I am a firefighter. No I'm not a man. Yes I am pregnant. No I don't care if you don't like it."

Her post was met with an outpouring of support, with many calling her "an inspiration to all girls".

Image source, Kat Robinson-Williams
Image caption,
Ms Robinson-Williams has also received many messages of support

The volunteer firefighter, who comes from the Hunter Valley in NSW, told the BBC she had posted the picture after several friends had told her "you shouldn't be doing this".

"I wanted to tell them I'm okay and that I'm not just going to stop," she said. "I'll stop when my body tells me to stop."

She added that her doctor had given her the all-clear "as long as I wear the right equipment".

Ms Robinson-Williams, who works in childcare, is the third generation in a family of volunteer firefighters.

"My mum was also pregnant during the fire season of 1995. It kind of runs in the family," she said. "When I was young, my grandma made a toddler size firefighter outfit for me."

A large number of her family members are still firefighter volunteers, including her grandmother.

"It's a family thing, we've always done it. My grandmother is still volunteering, has been for 50 years, and my mum has been doing it for over 30 years," she said.

Her husband is also a volunteer firefighter, as are her in-laws.

"I'm hoping my child will follow, though that's up to them," she said.

Image source, Kat Robinson-Williams
Image caption,
The NSW Rural Fire Services team in action

When asked if she felt scared at all while battling the fires, Ms Robinson-Williams was quick to say "no".

"I was in the thick of a fire yesterday, the houses were alight and backyards were on fire - we were there putting it out. It's just what I've always been doing."

About six million people live in the state of NSW.

Fire crews have been battling a front spanning 1,000km (620 miles) with several blazes "exceeding 100,000 hectares alone", according to officials.

On Wednesday, bushfires briefly spread to suburbs of Sydney.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Bushfires are burning across New South Wales

Authorities have said the region is in for a particularly dangerous bushfire season due to a severe drought and other factors.

Reporting by the BBC's Yvette Tan and Frances Mao.

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