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Art made from wildfire ashes auctioned off to support volunteer fire departments

More than 80 artists from around the world created 100 art pieces from the Cameron Peak Fire ashes and they go on sale next week.

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — After the Cameron Peak Fire left behind the largest burn scar this state has ever seen – a northern Colorado man is using the ashes and burned trees to help fund firefighters’ next battle with the flames.

In Tim O’Hara’s garage in Fort Collins, every painting, sculpture, drawing and piece of jewelry was born from the same devastation.

"Each piece has at least one speck of charcoal from the Cameron Peak Fire in it," said O'Hara. "That’s turning ashes to art."

O'Hara and his friend Lori Joseph started the "Ashes to Art Project" in 2012 after the High Park Fire. The goal was to use the burned charcoal and debris left over from the fire to create art which would be auctioned off to help firefighters. 

"We went and gathered ash from the fire and sent it nationwide to artists to have them produce art," said O'Hara. "We feel like we have a real opportunity here to make a difference this year."

For weeks last summer, O'Hara watched from his home as the flames became the largest fire Colorado has ever seen – what it left behind now fills his garage.

The work began as pieces of burned wood sent to more than 80 artists around the world. Then the boxes started coming in.

"Every time you open a package it’s like, woah, it blows your mind how much talent is in this room right now," said O'Hara. " Some might have just a little tiny piece of ash in it. Some of it is done 100% in ash."

From the ashes, comes art. From the art, O'Hara hopes he can make a difference.

Starting Monday and going through the following Saturday, all 100 pieces will be auctioned online. The money will go to two volunteer fire departments in northern Colorado that helped battle the flames – the Poudre Canyon Fire Protection District and the Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department.

"We’re not doing it for us. We’re just making sure we’re taking care of these volunteer firefighters who are risking not only their lives, but their own homes," said O'Hara. "Some of them lost their homes in these fires while they’re out protecting other homes."

Artists from all 50 states and Great Britain donated art to be auctioned off this year and they are working to create a book that features pictures of the art and will also benefit the volunteer fire departments. 

You can find more information about the auction and how to bid here