The Muir Beach Volunteer Fire Department has received a big gift courtesy of filmmaker George Lucas. Lucas donated one of his two engines from his Skywalker Ranch fleet in Lucas Valley after the Muir Beach fire department had entered into negotiations to buy the vehicle.
Initially, Lucas' representatives quoted a price of $55,000, which was below market value for the engine, which could fetch up to $90,000, said Muir Beach fire Chief Steve Wynn.
As negotiations continued there was a pause in talks. "The next thing I knew they said, 'George is just going to give it to you,'" Wynn said. "It was a huge moment. My mouth sort of dropped open. I said, 'You've got to be kidding.'"
If the volunteer department had to buy the engine — manufactured by International with Pierce apparatus — it would have wiped out its annual budget, meaning the purchase of other firefighting gear would have been delayed.
The Lucas engine, though built in 1989, only had about 22,000 miles on it. It can send about twice the volume of water onto a fire than the volunteer department's only engine, also manufactured by International with Pierce apparatus, which was built in 1986. It has about 80,000 miles on it. "We got that from the county and they are hard miles," Wynn said.
After some minor modifications, the Skywalker engine should be ready for service in a month.
Public announcement of the gift was made at longtime Muir Beach chief "John John" Sward's retirement party over the weekend. Lucas officials said the fire department is deserving.
"They are a great group who provide a very valuable service to a rural community," Tom Forster, director of community relations for Lucasfilm, said in a statement. "It was nice to be able to surprise them with the donation during Chief Sward's retirement dinner. We've long admired Chief Sward for his many decades of service in the West Marin community. This engine served us very well and is in great shape — we are happy it found a nice home."
One good turn deserves another. Muir Beach's old engine will head to Plumas County as a donation to replace another aging engine there for a volunteer department. The Plumas County engine will go to yet another needy volunteer department. "This one gesture ended helping three different fire departments," Wynn said.
The donation was announced the same weekend the San Anselmo Chamber of Commerce announced that Lucas, a San Anselmo resident, had donated property to the chamber in downtown San Anselmo for use as a small park.