MONTVERDE -- The town is considering four candidates to take control of its small volunteer fire department.

A five-member public safety board is reviewing the applications and is expected to submit recommendations by Tuesday. Mayor Helen Pearce will make the final choice.

The fire chief position has been vacant for several months since Roger Bunnell took an extended leave of absence. Glen Brecheen -- who also serves on the public safety board and as head of the town's planning and zoning board -- is acting fire chief.

Pearce emphasized the importance of picking the right person to head a 20-member department in the middle of Lake County's fastest growing area.

"He has to be able to get along with folks because the fire chief brings everybody to work together," she said.

Pearce said Montverde will pay the new chief up to $25,000 a year if the chosen candidate wants to work weekdays at the fire station. However, she said the chief also has the option to work fewer hours for less pay.

The candidates are Gary Schindele, Montverde's volunteer battalion fire chief; Lawrence W. MacPhee III, a captain with the Mascotte Fire Department; Steve Sette, a security services supervisor at Florida Mall in Orlando; and Vance Flummer, a paramedic with Lake-Sumter Emergency Medical Services.

Montverde's fire department has been working in recent years to improve services for the town's more than 1,000 residents. Last year the town leased a new firetruck to replace a 30-year-old pumper vehicle that broke down during Hurricane Charley in August.

In 2003, the town replaced a 1956-model truck with help from a $250,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The department also used that money to buy new equipment, including hazardous-gas detectors and thermal imaging cameras to help see through large fires.

Other fire departments in the area also are working to improve emergency services.

Lake County Fire Rescue is looking to open a station southwest of Montverde near Florida's Turnpike and County Road 455. Another station is proposed north of Montverde in Lake Jem.

Minneola also will open a city-run fire department, taking over service from the county in October.

The areas surrounding Montverde in southeast Lake are quickly becoming some of the fastest-growing parts of Central Florida, with more than 10,000 proposed homes. Commercial projects also are exploding along State Road 50 east of Clermont, including a million-square-foot shopping mall.

Robert Sargent can be reached at rsargent@orlandosentinel.com or 352-742-5909.