New Vadnais Heights, Minnesota Fire Chief in Line of Fire

One of the first fires that Ed Leier will face as Vadnais Heights' first full-time fire chief is the one smoldering in the fire department.

"Surely a little city of 16,000 can make it work" with a volunteer chief, he said.

But times have changed, said Bob Running, a former fire chief and current firefighter. Dual-income families and faster living mean that 20-year volunteers are a thing of the past, Running said. People are more likely to volunteer for eight or 10 years and then retreat to less-intense schedules. A full-time chief helps ensure continuity.

"It should have been done years ago," he said of Leier's hiring.

"I don't think it's fair to anyone to work a full-time job during the day and do their duties as a chief and have a family," Banovetz said.

She hopes the participatory nature of Leier's hiring firefighters contributed interview questions and provided feedback on the finalists will soothe ruffled feathers.

"We used to have a professional fire department, and we want to get back to that," Running said. "If people can't adjust, they'll have to move on."