Boardman fire chief retiring after 38 years

By Ashley Luthern


Thirty-six years ago this month, Fire Chief James R. Dorman had what he describes as a “reality check.”

In March 1975, he and four other firefighters were on the scene of a second arson at the Batos office building on Karago Avenue. The five firefighters were searching for the source of the smoke when the floor dropped a foot.

“We dropped hoses and ran for the door,” Dorman said. “... As the last guy ran out, the entire floor dropped into the basement. That was a reality check. This is a dangerous job.”

Dorman will leave that job April 1 after 38 years as a Boardman firefighter. From 1968 to 1972, he was a volunteer for the department. He became chief in 1996.

Surrounded by memorabilia, including his fire helmets and patches, at the main fire station on U.S. Route 224, Dorman recalled key cases from his career.

On Feb. 14, 1979, he was part of the crew that found Jodi Masters’ body in her burning home — and located the weapon, a rifle, used to murder her.

“It was the first time I’d seen anything that bad. [Then-Fire Chief] Don Cover didn’t take a carte blanche that she died of asphyxiation. He had the body X-rayed, and we found bullets in her,” he said.

Jodi’s husband, Steve Masters, was convicted of aggravated murder and aggravated arson and sentenced to life in prison in 1980. He has since been released on parole.

Before that case, Dorman was on the scene of a car-bombing that ignited an apartment complex near Brookwood Road and Lemans Drive on April 5, 1972. The man in the car, Randall Good, died.

“I’ve seen tragedy. I’ve seen outrageous things. I’ve been able to make things better, and that will be hard not to do,” Dorman said.

Dorman’s retirement plans are to travel extensively with his wife, Sandy. The couple have three daughters, one of whom lives in France. But Dorman added that he’s going to miss the camaraderie of the fire department.

“Walking away from here means I walk away from a really great family of people who would do just about anything for you,” he said.

The township already has begun the search for Dorman’s replacement using the Ohio Fire Chiefs’ Association, which is screening applicants and will give the township a list of the top five or 10 candidates, said township Administrator Jason Loree.

“We’re hopefully going to have somebody on within a few weeks of [his] retirement,” Loree said.

The new chief will make between $70,000 and $75,000 annually. Dorman’s annual salary upon retirement was $73,278. Dorman had to retire April 1 because of his participation in 2003 in a state retirement program — the Deferred Retirement Option Plan, commonly called DROP.

The program allows firefighters to accumulate a large lump-sum of money for retirement, with the stipulation that those in the program have eight years to retire.

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