• Last modified 69 days ago (Feb. 14, 2024)


Fire marshal named top investigator

Staff writer

Marion fire marshal Chris Mercer was named Kansas Arson Investigator of the Year at a ceremony Feb. 7 in Wichita.

The recognition, given during a training conference, came from the Kansas Chapter of the International Association of Arson Investigators.

One of 11 arson investigators with the state fire marshal’s office, Mercer joined the office in 2013.

Before that, he was a police officer in Holton and at Washburn University.

Mercer also was an enforcement agent with Kansas State Gaming Commission.

For five years, Mercer has used a dog, Bingo, trained to detect ignitable liquids.

According to a press release from the state fire marshal’s office, he was selected for the award based on his completion of a complex investigation in which he conducted detailed experiments with chemicals present at a fire to determine that neither the chemicals, nor their various mixtures, caused the fire.

“Chris was recognized because he went above and beyond during this investigation to scientifically and indisputably prove that chemicals present at the scene were not to blame for starting the fire,” State Fire Marshal Mark Engholm said. “His diligence allowed this investigation to move beyond the chemicals to determine the fire had been deliberately set.”

The fire a few months ago didn’t happened in Marion County and remains under investigation, Mercer said.

“The owner was suggesting that chemicals he was working with on that day and the prior day, he had thrown in the same location, and that had caused the fire that way,” he said. “I was able to debunk his excuse that the chemicals had started that fire.”

The man had a history of working with chemicals, Mercer said.

“I believe he thought he could pull one over on me because the common person does not know better,” he said.

Mercer, at the conference on behalf of the state fire marshal’s office, was one of seven officers who raided the home of Marion County Record co-owner Joan Meyer using a later-disavowed search warrant Aug. 11.

Meyer died from sudden cardiac arrest 24 hours after the nearly two-hour-long search of her home. A coroner’s report lists the anxiety and anger she experienced as a contributing cause of her death.

Last modified Feb. 14, 2024