Excelsior Fire Chief Scott Gerber is leaving the department at the end of the month to become fire chief in Eden Prairie.

Gerber, who has been chief of the Excelsior Fire District for 12 ½ years, will begin in Eden Prairie on April 1.

The fire district’s board — composed of council members from Excelsior, Deephaven, Greenwood, Shorewood and Tonka Bay — will appoint an interim chief, most likely a retired fire chief, Gerber said. The fire district serves a population of 18,000 on the south side of Lake Minnetonka, while Eden Prairie’s department serves a population of 65,000.

The Excelsior district is taking applications through March 28 for a permanent replacement, who would be expected to start this summer, Gerber said.

The fire district will hold an open house for Gerber from 3 to 5 p.m. Wednesday at Excelsior Fire Station No. 1, 24100 Smithtown Road, Shorewood.

The Excelsior district has 40 paid on-call firefighters and responds to 850 calls a year for fire and safety services such as emergency medical treatment, Gerber said. It also offers prevention and inspection programs and public education.

At least once in his time there, Gerber said, firefighters performed the classic service of rescuing a cat from a tree. They also have rescued animals that fall through the lake ice, he said.

“Dogs and cats and pets are very much part of people’s families,” Gerber said. But in most cases, he added, “when cats get caught in trees, they eventually make their way down.”