A former Fairfax City volunteer fire chief was named yesterday to fill the top paid position in the city's troubled fire department.

Harold Dailey, who served as volunteer chief from 1970 until 1975 when he became the first paid head of the Winchester, Va., fire department, will return to Fairfax City as fire service administrator at the end of January.

"I know he'll be acceptable to the volunteers, but I don't really know how the paid men are going to regard him," said city council member Carl J. Hemmer. "Because of his six years as volunteer chief it's going to be somewhat difficult for him to establish his credibility."

The 39 paid and approximately 70 volunteer firefighters in Fairfax have been feuding for more than a year over control of the department. Last summer volunteers complained that paid personnel had jammed their pockets with fishhooks and scrawled obscenities on their helmets.

Earlier this month, the city council voted 4-3 to reorganize the department to place volunteer chief Joseph Seay in overall command of both paid and volunteer personnel. Since then there have been rumors that many of the paid firefighters are looking for new jobs.

"I don't anticipate any insurmountable problems," said the 49-year-old Dailey yesterday. "There will be some, but we'll handle them."