Before firefighters were able to extinguish flames from the devastating Marshall Fire, Rocky Mountain Airport Director Paul Anslow and his staff were already planning ways to help neighboring communities.

“We have an incredibly close and strong relationship with the communities that surround us, including Louisville and Superior,” said Anslow, who explained many residents from surrounding areas live, work and do business at the airport.

But even as water tankers were being staged at the edge of the airport, and Anslow was packing up his own home under pre-evacuation orders, RMMA was already thinking about ways to help.

Because thousands of residents have lost everything they own, donations of money, food, water and other essentials are critical, but with significant structure loss in the area, Anslow says that creates a shortage of warehouse and storage space.

“The great thing about an airport is that we have massive amounts of transportation availability, so planes can fly things in,” he said. “But the other thing we have is space—and a lot of it.”

Currently, Anslow estimates airport tenants have donated more than 20,000 square feet of hangar space that is available for storage and distribution of supplies and donated goods.

Two of the largest donations come from RMMA’s two largest tenants, fixed base operators Signature Flight Support and Sheltair.

And that number continues to grow.

Adding to that, Anslow said RMMA had made more than 120,000 square feet of secure parking available for semitractor-trailers and large storage containers.

While the idea came together in less than 48 hours after the fire was contained, Anslow said he could not be more proud of his staff, tenants, airport advisory board, and local government representatives.

Taking a two-phase approach, Anslow said the airport first wanted to assess what to see what assets were available.

“I didn’t want to reach out to FEMA and the Office of Emergency Management and just say, `What can we do,’ but rather say, `Here’s what we have available.’”

Airport Deputy Director Brian Bishop is coordinating a small grass-roots network of local volunteers, available to assist with sorting and organizing and donations that may arrive by truck.

Anslow said RMMA has received some donations.

“We haven’t received a lot, yet,” he said. “We have about 5,000 square feet of pallets loaded with water, mattresses, pillows, bedding, and such. Next week, we expect two trucks with water and diapers.”

He suspects donations will ramp up once an arrangement with VOAD, Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster comes on board.

But Anslow said as much as the airport would like to accept individual donations, he asks that those wanting to help work through official channels such as the Colorado Gives Wildfire Fund, the Community Foundation Boulder County Wildfire Fund, the American Red Cross, or use the online donations form on the Boulder Office of Emergency Management.

Native Oklahoman Deborah Grigsby is a writer and photographer passionate about local journalism. After an eight-year break to play with airplanes, she returned to Colorado Community Media as a reporter...