Santa Barbara County residents who live within the county’s unincorporated jurisdiction, including Montecito, now have a special ombudsman who can assist in troubleshooting potential problems as they begin the rebuilding process after the Tea Fire.

Tony Nisich has been hired by Santa Barbara County to immediately serve as ombudsman. He can be reached at 805.560.1098 or

“Mr. Nisich is in a position to aggressively pursue resolutions for county residents to any rebuilding situation so that the Tea Fire survivors under county jurisdiction can move as quickly as possible in rebuilding their homes and lives,” First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal said.

Nisich is a state-registered, licensed civil engineer with a master’s degree in construction management from California State University, San Jose, who has more than 30 years of experience handling projects valued from $12 million to more than $900 million, in both the public and private sectors. He has executive and senior management experience in a wide range of public works, building and regulatory issues for disaster recovery, permitting and contract management, transportation issues, water, wastewater, streets, infrastructure and other environmental affairs.

He also has key recovery experience from the 1994 Northridge earthquake, as a government official and as a resident, which gives him a unique perspective on disaster rebuilding process from both a consumer and regulatory point of view, Carbajal said.

The ombudsman will help provide an additional path of quick customer service to property owners in addition to the project case managers who have been assigned to each parcel. The case managers will help guide the property owners through the rebuilding and permitting process, and Nisich will help resolve any additional issues that may occur, Carbajal said.

To date, the county already has issued about 24 permits to begin demolition and debris removal on the parcels in the unincorporated areas. There were about 90 parcels in county jurisdiction where homes, guest homes or other buildings were lost during the Tea Fire.

Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency also are advising all city and county residents who were affected by Tea Fire to call 800.621.3362 to register with FEMA as the first step in the recovery process with FEMA.

City and county officials, meanwhile, continue to work cooperatively to protect the Sycamore Creek Watershed and adjacent areas from flood damage as a result of the Tea Fire. Crews were out in key watershed areas Friday and will continue work next week.

Even before firefighters had extinguished the flames of the Tea Fire, public works officials were developing response plans to deal with the fire’s soil erosion impacts ands watershed damage. Sycamore Creek, from Highway 101 upstream to and within the burned area, is being cleared of debris. Debris basins along Sycamore Creek also are being cleared out and maintained.

William Boyer is Santa Barbara County‘s communications director.