Special Events | Carnivals, Fairs, and Festivals


Fire and life safety regulations relating to temporary carnivals, fairs and festivals (see “Definition” section below).

Note* Tents and canopies within Special Events are required to have permits and meet requirements in and of themselves. For requirements specific to tents and canopies Click Here .


A “special event” is defined as a temporary gathering of 50 or more participants involving one or more of the following activities:

a. Exclusive use of public facilities such as buildings, parks, streets, parking lots, athletic fields, etc.
b. Use of private property where temporary structures (stages, grandstands, tents, canopies), and/or demonstration areas, activity participation areas are utilized by the public.
c. Closing of a public street or private right-of-way.
d. Requires temporary installation of equipment and/or buildings.
e. Requires public safety support based upon Fire Department assessment.

Different governmental jurisdictions have different procedures for obtaining Special Event permits. Generally, special events in Santa Barbara County jurisdiction require that you meet the requirements of multiple county agencies (Planning and Development, Public Works, County Sheriff, and County Fire) and possibly the California Highway Patrol. To satisfy the requirements of Santa Barbara County Fire Department, you must complete a Special Event Permit Application. Please read the information below to assist you in planning and correctly obtaining the necessary approvals from Santa Barbara County Fire for your event.

Contacting the Santa Barbara County Fire Department

To submit an application for your special event, download and complete the online application for Special Events by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page. Complete the Special Event application and “Save As” with a new document name using the site address/location. Create site plan, scan (if hand drawn) and email application and site plan to: [email protected]

The various agencies that could potentially be involved in reviewing your event include Santa Barbara County Planning and Development, Public Works Department (Transportation Division), Public Health Department, Community Services Department, local Police Department, Sheriff, and CHP. Although these agencies typically communicate with each other, it is incumbent upon the event sponsor to make initial contact with all agencies independently. Each agency will then inform the sponsor of their agency-specific requirements.

Review all requirements for special events presented on SBC Fire’s “Code Summary for Permits – Special Events (Carnivals, Fairs & Festivals)”. A link to the summary is also located at the bottom of this page.

If your event will be utilizing large tents or canopies, there are separate requirements. Locate and review the SBC Fire’s “Code Summary for Permits – Tents and Other Membrane Structures.

SBC Fire Application Requirements

In addition to the event application, a diagram of the event setup is required. The event diagram should indicate all tents, canopies, temporary structures, stages, grandstands, medical treatment areas, evacuation relocation areas, fire protection equipment, etc. (where applicable). Provide distances to nearby buildings, parking areas, and transportation routes (roads and driveways).

If public/private streets or private driveways are to be blocked from vehicle access, you must submit a detailed map that shows streets with names and roadblock locations. If private driveways are involved, indicate the driveway address(es).

Permit Requirements
Your application will be reviewed for completeness and compliance to location and distance requirements. A determination will be made as to whether a Fire Department Permit is required. A permit will be needed only if the location, size, set up, use and complexity results in the need for a safety inspection by the fire department to insure compliance to California Fire Code requirements.

If a Fire Department permit is required, a fee will be assessed as follows:

  • Carnivals and Fairs – 50 to 100 occupants – $99.00
  • Carnivals and Fairs – 101 to 300 occupants – $149.00
  • Carnivals and Fairs – over 300 occupants – $297.00

Food Trucks

All mobile food preparation vehicles that contain cooking equipment that produce smoke or grease-laden vapors for the purpose of preparing and serving food to the public must be permitted by Santa Barbara County Fire Department in order to prepare or sell food anywhere in the jurisdiction of Santa Barbara County Fire Department, including, but not limited to, at Carnivals, Fairs, or Events. Please contact [email protected] in order to set up an inspection. Please click here for minimum requirements.

Planning Documents

In addition, an evaluation will be made by SBC Fire as to whether a Fire Suppression Plan, Evacuation Plan, Medical Plan and/or Communications Plan shall be required. These various plans may be required depending on the size, location and complexity of the event. By addressing items in these planning documents, SBC Fire will have the understanding that these concerns have been considered and planned for in advance of the event.

Fire Suppression Plan

Safety actions addressed in a Special Event Fire Plan could include, but not be limited to, the following:

  • Evacuation actions in case of fire (wildland or tent areas) – this can be moving people to safety zones (center of playing fields or parking areas).
  • Escape routes to safety zones to remain open and accessible at all times.
  • Flammable vegetation to be mowed down to near mineral soil in all public areas and a clearance of a minimum of 30 feet to any standing vegetation is required.
  • In addition to the separation requirements listed in the Santa Barbara County Fire Department Code Summary for Tents and Membrane Structures, flammable cooking locations will be a minimum of thirty feet from any flammable vegetation.
  • You may decide to prohibit smoking entirely on event grounds or allow smoking in designated smoking areas only. Designated smoking areas must meet the following requirements:
    • Designated smoking areas must be clearing labelled and delineated with barriers.
    • There can be no flammable vegetation or decorations within the smoking areas.
    • Receptacles approved for discarded cigarettes must be provided.
    • No smoking signs to be located throughout event site (except designated smoking areas).
    • Security personnel, area coordinators and event staff to be instructed of and to be responsible for enforcing smoking/no smoking requirements.

Medical Plan

A Medical Plan could indicate but not be limited to the following:

  • Emergency Medical Technicians (if utilized) will be on scene at all times.
  • Designation of treatment area which ambulance and fire engine can access directly, or….
  • Means of moving patient to an area where patient can be accessed by ambulance and engine company personnel (only if patient condition warrants movement), or.…
  • Marked parking area that is proximal to playing fields and can be accessed by ambulance and engine company and which will remain open and unblocked at all times.
  • Event personnel (transportation staff, parking staff, area coordinators, security personnel, medical personnel) to be instructed that roads accessing established emergency parking/treatment area are to remain unblocked at all times and are responsible to enforce no blocking requirements.

Communications Plan

A Communications Plan might include:

  • A statement that all event workers, security personnel and medical personnel will be advised of various plans (Fire, Medical and Communications) and are prepared to implement said plans.
  • The event coordinators, the on-site EMT and security personnel to be connected by mobile radio devices or cell phones.

Follow-up Procedure

A reply email will be sent to you stating whether your application has been approved or if additional information is required. Once the application and any required documentation is reviewed and approved by the Inspection Services Section of SBC Fire, a written and signed approval letter can be provided if it is needed.

Once all information is deemed adequate and your initial set up plan is approved, applicant will be notified via email to contact the appropriate Santa Barbara County Fire Inspector to schedule a safety inspection, which is required prior to permit issuance.

The Event Host is to contact the designated SBC Fire Inspector at least 24 hours PRIOR TO SETUP to arrange a time for site inspection of the event site. The site inspection date and time should be sufficiently in advance of the event so that if there are problems or standing violations, they can be corrected after the site inspection and prior to start of event.

Inspection and Permit Issuance

A inspection will result in verbal approval which will act as temporary permit until the paper permit is mailed to applicant. A bill for the permit fee will be mailed to the billing address on the application. Once the permit fee is paid, the paper permit will be mailed to the applicant. It is important to note that because the receipt of the paper permit occurs after the event has concluded, the verbal approval provided by the inspector will act as the required permit until the paper permit is received. Failure to make timely payment for a permit will result in your company not being able to obtain any future required permits.

If you do not have internet access or email capability, you may print the application and mail the completed application with site plan to Santa Barbara County Fire Department Inspection Services, 1676 Oak Street, Solvang, CA 93463.

To obtain a Special Event Application, click on the button below.