MILLBURY — When Barrett Dorner was in kindergarten, he made a list of what he wanted to be when he grew up: Firefighter, paramedic, police officer, reporter.
He’s checked most of those boxes and said he has reached his ultimate job: Lake Township fire chief.
Dorner was hired on Tuesday at a $76,000 annual salary.
His passion for helping people came out during the June 2010 tornado that ripped down Ohio 795 in the township, killing seven people.
Dorner was working for a local television station and was on site, covering the tragedy. When he saw people needed help, he dropped the mic and picked up a first aid kit. He had completed EMT training just a month before the tornado.
“I did my first trauma assessment,” Dorner said of the night of the tornado. He helped transport the patient to a Toledo hospital and worked with a private ambulance crew the rest of the night. He knocked on doors and trudged through ditches the next day, looking for possible victims.
Dorner has been fire chief for Portage Township in Oak Harbor since October 2021. He has been a Toledo firefighter and paramedic for nine years. He estimated that he has been working between 70 and 90 hours per week, with both jobs — but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“First of all, I love it. Second of all, it’s just so much work to do to get us up to modern day, and that’s what I was hired to do,” Dorner said of the Portage Township job.
He started his fire career in Rossford as a volunteer in 2009. He also spent a year as a Perrysburg Township dispatcher.
Dorner, who calls himself a “Wood County kid,” said he always planned to be a fire chief in the area.
“Lake wasn’t necessarily on the radar, because they had a succession plan,” he said, referring to the township assistant chief, who left last year for a private sector position.
Dorner said he jumped at the chance to apply.
Dorner has his bachelor’s degree in fire administration from Bowling Green State University.
“I’m a nerd for the administration stuff, but I still like going on calls,” he said.
Police Chief Mark Hummer, who is the Lake Township administrator, said there were several good candidates, but Dorner checked all the boxes.
“The credentialing was there, the education was there, the drive was there,” Hummer said.
Dorner has the support of his predecessor, Bruce Moritz, who retired last year and helped with the search.
“What we were looking for was somebody with some drive, some longevity and someone to take us to the future,” said Moritz, who was at Tuesday’s meeting.
Dorner is a firefighter, paramedic, fire and EMS instructor and inspector.
“And his drive was just outstanding,” Moritz said. “He wants to see this through and he wants to see this department grow.”
“I love that ‘drive’ is what you took out of me, because that’s what I pride myself on,” Dorner said.
He added that he is also a leader. Dorner said he thrived on managing the tumult of a newsroom — he started organizing election coverage when he was 16.
“I went from managing chaos in a newsroom to managing chaos in a fire drill,” he said. “And there’s still chaos on the administration side. Managing that and coming up with solutions … I’m a nerd.”
Trustee Chairman Ken Gilsdorf said that Dorner’s experience is going to help the township with a possible joint fire district decision.
The $24,000 study with Rossford and Northwood looks at combining EMS and fire services.