A good neighbor awarded

Irene Selemi gets a hug from Capt. Bob Lee from the L.A. County Urban Search and Rescue task force 103 as her husband Vachik, left, and son Nicholas look on. The family received the Good Neighbor Award. Photo by Mary O'KEEFE


During the February rains, when it seemed as if the entire hillside was sliding down, firefighters found immediate refuge in the Selemis’ Ocean View Boulevard home for those displaced.
On Monday, firefighters got a chance to say thank you to the family for opening their home to their neighbors and to the department. They presented the family with a Good Neighbor plaque that read, “For unselfishly and generously agreeing to open you home as a temporary evacuation collection point…(we) wish to sincerely thank you and recognize your kindness…”
Capt. Bob Lee of the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s task force Urban Search and Rescue 103 recalled how he and his men had parked down Ocean View Boulevard and walked up to the 5800 block on Feb. 6. Lee said the first cell of rain and mud had filled the streets with debris so they couldn’t get their rescue units to the area.
“We hiked up and the second weather cell hit and a torrent of water (and mud) came down. We were looking at the hillside coming down. People scattered from their homes. I needed a place for everyone to go. I saw Irene (Selemi) in her yard and I asked her two questions: ‘Are you the homeowner? Can I use your house?’ She answered both with ‘Yes,’” Lee said.
He pointed out that neither she, husband Vachik or son Nicholas asked why they needed the home, they just opened the doors.
“We had people and animals stationed in her home. She never said a word, not even when we brought in the animals,” he added.
For Irene it was just part of being a good neighbor.
“I love this neighborhood. We were very close before the fire but we got to know each other better after the fire and [mudflow/flooding],” Irene said.
The family seemed surprised at the fire department’s attention, especially when they arrived on Monday with several engines and units.
“They are the ones we should be thanking,” she said, and then turned to the firefighters. “You guys are the ones that did all the work.”