In commemoration of the brave actions of firefighters and survivors alike, the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission will sponsor the creation of a red hot mural.

The mural, commissioned in response to the recent string of deadly fires that have devastated the Santa Barbara area, is expected to be completed by late May and will be displayed in the Santa Barbara County Fire Dept. Headquarters. Local artist Betsy Gallery was chosen to lead the project, with the assistance and input of local community members.

Gallery said creating the mural was her way of helping our fire-prone community.

“Whenever there is a major disaster there is a lot of trauma that the community experiences,” Gallery said. “This happens over and over in our community, and I believe that creating art is a way of feeling like you’re doing something about it. It becomes a healing process.”

Gallery said fire victims have provided her with charred possessions and other materials to incorporate into her mural.

“People have contributed pieces burned in the fire like ceramic, melted glass, porcelain dishes that were broken, metal figures that were transformed and fused kitchen materials from the side of the survivors,” Gallery said. “From the fire personnel I have two helmets, badges, tools, a length of heavy chain, an ax, a length of fire hose and a beautiful old-fashioned brass nozzle.”

The mural will be divided into two parts — one side filled with warped household artifacts to commemorate the survivors and the other with tools used by the firefighters to honor their heroic efforts, according to Gallery.

“This mural is to commemorate the people,” Gallery said. “Since 1944, we’ve had 19 major fires. I figured there were people from even the more historic fires of the past who would have something to contribute.”

Gallery said she hopes the mural project will help those directly affected by the fires as well as the Santa Barbara community at large.

Gallery will host a workshop on the various methods and techniques she will use to construct the mural at her studio on Jan. 9. Community members are encouraged to attend.