Community editor and columnist Kris Capps is a longtime resident of Fairbanks and Denali Park. Contact her at, in the office at 459-7546 or by cell at 322-6334. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.


Tri-Valley Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Baxter Mercer and his wife Renee, after learning he was selected to receive a Community Outreach award for his service. He'll be honored, along with other exceptional first responders, at the No One Left Behind banquet in Fairbanks on Nov. 9. Photo courtesy Renee Mercer

Tri-Valley Volunteer Fire Department’s assistant chief Baxter Mercer will receive a Community Outreach award at the Fourth Annual No One Left Behind awards banquet Nov. 9 at Ryan Middle School in Fairbanks. He is one of many first responders in the Interior who will be honored.

Mercer had no idea this award was coming and only learned of it when Chief Rob Graham announced it at a recent weekly training session. In his normal humble fashion, Mercer said he could think of other first responders who deserve this honor more than him. But this time, the honor is his.

A regular blood donor, Mercer has contributed 5 gallons of his type O-negative blood since 2012. Ironically, that service ended up saving his own life.

Back in 2014, he went in to the Alaska Blood Bank to make his routine contribution, but they couldn’t accept it because his heart rate was lower than 50 beats per minute. They sent him home with a heart monitor. After analyzing the results of that monitor, doctors gave him an urgent message: Come to town immediately, but do not drive yourself.

It so happened that Mercer was already on his way. When he got the message, he was driving an ambulance, delivering patients to Fairbanks. He took care of those patients, and then reported directly to the heart center. It turns out his heart was stopping at 5- to 7-second intervals and he needed a pacemaker to regulate his heartbeat.

That explained some of the faintness and fatigue he experienced over the past couple months, which he had attributed to age and stress.

“If Bax had not been a devoted blood donor, he would have never had this checked out,” said his wife, Renee Mercer.

With a pacemaker in place, Mercer can now continue his year-round, 15-plus years of volunteer service to the local fire department. He does a little bit of everything. He uses his skills as a mechanic to keep ambulances and fire trucks running. He often responds to ambulance calls and drives patients 120 miles to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital regularly. He pulls fire hose, he extricates victims from car wrecks. Sometimes, he oversees the whole operation as incident commander of entire emergency scenes.

“If every fire department could have a Baxter Mercer, it would be guaranteed that their fire department would run more smoothly, more efficiently and with better camaraderie,” said Fire Chief Rob Graham.

The ceremony honoring Mercer and others happens every year, thanks to a collaboration between Fairbanks North Star Borough School District and Fairbanks Rescue Mission. Exceptional first responders in law enforcement, firefighting, dispatching and emergency medical services are all honored. The annual banquet also helps serve some of the community’s most vulnerable residents. All proceeds, after expenses, go to the Fairbanks Rescue Mission.

The entire event is planned and implemented as a service learning project for the North Pole High School and Lathrop High School JROTC Cadet Corps students. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased online at The banquet takes place 5-9 p.m. Nov. 9.

2019 No One Left Behind award winners 

Colin Field, University Fire Department

Daniel McFaul, Eielson AFB Security Forces

Peyton Foy, Eielson AFB Security Forces

Dave VanArsdall, Fairbanks Fire Department

Dalton Gregg, Fairbanks Fire Department

Cameron Huff, UAF Police Department

Tara Bird, UAF Police Department

Triston Allen, Eielson AFB Civil Engineering

Alexander Stewart, Eielson AFB Civil Engineering

Cory Nichols, Eielson AFB Medical Group

Bruce Milne, North Pole Police Department

Baxter Mercer, Tri-Valley Volunteer Fire Department

Andrew Wixon, Fairbanks Police Department

Ryan Holland, Fairbanks Fire Department

Mark Plummer, Salcha Fire & Rescue

Matt Thompson, Salcha Fire & Rescue

Jennifer Winkler, Fairbanks Fire Department

Timothy Abbott, Alaska Wildlife Trooper

Robert Nunley, Alaska State Troopers

Teresa Dobbs, State Trooper Dispatch

Erika Roberts, State Trooper Dispatch

Monroe Mize, State Trooper Dispatch

Brennen Kraemer, State Trooper Dispatch

Timothy Wolff, Alaska State Troopers

Lee Bruce, Alaska State Troopers

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at Call her at the office 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.