Part 1 of 2:
#1 - Local man saves man from burning truck
by Greg Marsten
Previously published on Feb. 16, 2022
A Danbury teen has been credited with saving his friend’s life, after pulling him from a burning vehicle as it went up in flames.
Rylie Snorek, 17, Danbury, attends Webster High School, but has also been a Danbury Fire cadet for over three years.
According to Rylie, he was following his friend, Caleb Smith, from his house outside
Danbury on their way to school in Webster. They were on the way to the high school at about 6:45 in the morning on Thursday, Feb. 3 when something went very wrong with Caleb’s older Chevrolet pickup, as flames erupted from the truck after a gasket from a return fuel line apparently leaked fuel onto the hot engine or exhaust.
“And the fuel pump just kept pumping,” Rylie said, adding that the sudden blaze also made the interior door locks freeze up on his friend’s truck. “Maybe the electronics got fired, but I was able to open the door from the outside, though.”
The truck was quickly engulfed in flames, and Rylie said he was lucky to have been able to get him out.
“Yeah, the truck went up really fast,” he said. “I got him out as quick as I could … but there wasn’t much truck left by the time (firefighters) arrived.”
Webster firefighters arrived on scene moments later to extinguish what was left of the truck, but it was Rylie’s quick action that saved his friend from an awful fate.
“It’s something everyone should have done,” Rylie said with a shrug. “It was lucky I was there.”
Rylie has already taken a few kudos from his firefighting comrades, and his friend, Caleb, is happy to have survived.
But also noted that it wasn’t just any old day for him to be hero that morning.
“And it was my birthday!” he added, matter-of-factly. “I’m glad it turned out okay.”
# 2 - Rocky to the rescue!
Search and rescue puppy donated to Danbury Fire
by Greg Marsten
Previously published on April 6, 2022
It was hard to ignore the watchful eye of ‘Moxie’ the German Shepherd, as she kept her gaze across the parking lot beside the Danbury Fire & Rescue Station last Sunday, April 3; Three of her nine-week-old male puppies frolicked with the volunteer firefighters and kids, and she was a proud but nervous mother.
One of those puppies – a male with a blue collar named ‘Rocky’ – is set to be the newest local search and rescue dog, but he’s got bigger things to worry about now, including how his two little brothers seemed to be getting more attention than him.
Rocky the German Shepherd puppy has been donated to the Danbury Fire & Rescue for use in future search and rescue operations, and it’s done with a very specific case in mind: last year’s disappearance of Ashley Miller Carlson, the 33-year-old Grantsburg mother of four who was missing for months before being found in Pine County, Minnesota last fall. Her disappearance caused a flood of searching and other efforts by volunteers and law enforcement officials over a nine-week period, ultimately leading to her being discovered in a rural area, with many questions still remaining.
“The dog is being donated in honor of Ashley,” stated Nora Miller, Ashley’s grandmother, who praised the efforts of the individuals and groups involved with the expanded search and rescue efforts. She noted how few such specialized search dogs there are in both Minnesota and Wisconsin and hoped that little Rocky will help to find missing people of all ages in the coming years.
Mary Anderson of Sunshine Kennels is donating the puppy, and she was on hand to keep the critters wrangled in among the excitement, while also noting how important it is to have such a dog available, when needed, for lost or missing children, elderly, or dementia patients, and in unusual cases, such as Ashley’s.
“I was Ashely’s guidance counselor when she was a kid,” Mary said, highlighting her own connection to the tragedy and her family, while also mentioning that when Ashely first went missing, they tried to help with the search, but had a basic problem. “There is a real shortage of search dogs, that’s for sure.”
“We want good thing to come from this horrible thing (Ashely’s disappearance and death),” Nora said. “This way, nobody should have to wait so long (for a search dog) when time is so important.”
Ashley’s body was found in late 2021 in a wooded area of Ogema Township in eastern Minnesota – a few miles from where her car was found in September. As Nora noted, while Ashley’s car had been discovered in a remote area, partially submerged, they had a difficult time finding search dogs to assist and said that there are only a couple such animals in the entire state.
“We’re trying shorten the time it takes to bring a dog in to help,” Nora said, “So others don’t have to wait so long, like we did, for nine terrible weeks.”
The new search dog is just a puppy, but Anderson said the dog is bred just for such future ‘jobs,’ and Nora said such a unique bloodline would typically cost a police or fire department up to $5,000, plus the hundreds of hours of specialized training and field work required to hone the canine’s skills.
Rocky will live with a member of the Danbury Fire & Rescue squad, Tiffany Meyer, who along with her family will not only raise the Shepherd but will also undergo rigorous training for such searches.
“I honestly am not sure what that includes,” Meyer said with a smile and a shrug. “I guess we’ll find out!”
# 3 - Grantsburg
Previously published on April 13, 2022
The Grantsburg school board members can now smile, relax a bit, and breathe a sigh of relief as the community supported their $19.7 million referendum on April 5 as it passed voter muster. Though the job is far from over, the biggest step of passing the referendum, which failed the previous year, passed this year with votes of 703 in favor and 558 against.
There are big plans to look forward to for the school district since the referendum got the go ahead. The main tasks for the referendum are to decommission Nelson School, expand the elementary school, update the classrooms and common spaces at the middle and high schools, and to repair building systems and create a safer traffic flow around all the schools.
There is a proposed site plan that the district has been sharing with the community which explains how the district would construct new classrooms and spaces, remodel existing spaces, and reconfigure the pick-up and drop-off locations for the schools. It also shares a more in-depth look into the full referendum plans for the district.
If all the planning goes according to plan, they are hoping to start construction by spring/summer of 2023. Watt stated that the hope is to be completed with the whole project in two years, in 2024 - but this is all just a rough timeline.
# 4 - The Chenal brothers’
big draft day
by Greg Marsten
Previously published on May 4, 2022
It was a big weekend for the Grantsburg Chenal brothers, Leo and John, both of whom entered the National Football League draft, which culminated with team selections in recent days.
The two former Pirates and subsequent UW Badger football standouts were on a lot of teams’ radars in recent weeks, and the subject of plenty of gridiron speculation.
Leo left the UW-Madison one year early for the opportunity to play in the big show, while older brother John finished his senior year and also noted his NFL eligibility.
Both former Badgers had solid looks from the big leagues, with Leo Chenal slated to go in the late second or early third round, which he did. Leo ended up getting drafted in the third round as the 103rd overall draft pick for the Kansas City Chiefs, and the linebacker was already noted in the Kansas City press as a likely impact player for the Chiefs, who used four of their first five draft picks for defensive players. Kansas City has a strong regional following as an NFL squad, as they held their spring training at the UW-River Falls for many years, I until they built a new dedicated facility in Missouri in recent years.
Older brother John Chenal completed his senior year at Madison and declared his intent as well as a fullback, and remained an undrafted free agent over the weekend, but then he was invited to participate in the New York Jets rookie camp. If he makes enough of an impression on the Jets, he has a chance to become a full roster member or work with the practice squad this season, with an opportunity to play for the Jets.
Both Chenal brothers have impressive athletic resumes and had solid seasons and careers at UW-Madison.
In his junior season as a Badger, Leo Chenal recorded 106 total tackles, 17 of them for losses, as well as seven sacks. He was named to the First Team All-Big Ten Conference team, and was awarded the Big Ten Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year award. He was also named as an AFCA First-Team All-American.
As a Grantsburg Pirate, Leo Chenal racked up over 5,000 total yards on top of over 80 touchdowns on offense and made nearly 400 solo tackles as a Pirate. He earned multiple regional, conference and state awards, as well.
Older brother John Chenal became a Badger walk-on star as a fullback, which limited his NFL options, as fewer teams use fullbacks as often as in college with the quarterback option.
Nonetheless, while he was undrafted over the weekend, John Chenal was later invited to the New York Jets rookie training camp for a chance at a backfield position or on the practice squad. While he was a Grantsburg Pirate, John Chenal also had impressive numbers on both sides of the line of scrimmage, gaining over 5,500 total yards and scoring 70 touchdowns on offenses, and racking up nearly 400 tackles in three seasons as a Pirate. He was named to the WFCA All-State team as a senior on both offense and defense.
- With information from the NFL and UW-Badgers
# 5 - Jail project
by Greg Marsten
Previously published on June 15, 2022
Painted pink lines on the existing pavement show the approximate octagonal outline of the new Burnett County Public Safety/Jail Facility. The lines were visible prior to the fencing being placed last week, but they show how large the project will be, once completed and housing inmates, and law enforced staff.
“The long-awaited day is final here,” stated Burnett County Sheriff Tracy Finch, who noted that after years – actually several decades - of discussions and research, the new jail facility project is officially underway, after a groundbreaking ceremony last Wednesday, June 8, beside the current Government Center in Siren.
“Many of us have spent countless hours preparing for this,” Sheriff Finch stated, outlining how they had a team of officials who went on multiple trips across the state, viewing other jails and facilities to find what works, what to avoid and to compare their needs with how others were able to weigh public safety, costs, and future needs.
“We’ve learned more about sewer and toilet types, locks, wall panels, roofing, bid specs, blueprints, and many other things than we ever thought we would,” Finch joked. “But throughout this project we’ve remained transparent to the public and county board … it’s extremely important to us that we get the most out of taxpayer dollars. This is a huge investment to the community, but it’s an investment that I believe will pay dividends.”
Sheriff Finch also praised the citizens of the county, who trusted them to carry through with the project and seek a worthy design and financing.
“But this is much more than just a jail,” Finch added, noting some of the other ways the facility will enhance and allow the county to be more efficient, safe and have a solid asset for decades into the future. ”It’s hard to believe this day is finally here … I did not think it would happen in my career.”
Finch said the new facility would not only allow for the county to finally house all of their own inmates, but it will also offer them more opportunities for programming, counseling and countless other ways that will benefit the community for decades to come.
County Board chairman Don Taylor also spoke to the project and praised the team that made it come to fruition. While later in an interview he admitted concern with supply chain issues, inflation and other modern worries, the financing was hard to beat.
“Some might say it’s the wrong time to build, material costs have increased, along with everything else. But we examined all of it, and we examined the fact that we were able to get $30 million at 1.84 percent, and it’s pretty much a trade off,” Taylor said.
With many county board supervisors, law enforcement officials and government officials of all flavors watching, the ground was officially broken as shovels of dirt were tossed in a ceremonial event that included some of the dozens of people involved in the project, from the architects to project manager and others, all with a similar message that this will be a good thing for the county, especially after so many years of paying through the nose to house inmates out of the county and costs associated with having inmates being transported across the state, at times, to find a place to be incarcerated or housed.
The Public Safety/Jail project is being paid for through a variety of means, but mainly though a $30 million bond sale, supplemented by cash savings, federal ARPA relief money, and other revenues, although recent price increases have tested the assumed costs and budget for the project.
“How can you beat 1.84-percent? It is what it is and we’re going to move it forward and get it done … because it’s the right thing to do,” Chairman Taylor said in response.
Kraemer Brothers of Plain, Wisconsin is the general contractors, alongside architects from Potter Lawson. According to Remington Stittleburg of Kraemer Brothers, some of the important specifications for the project are that it is a 68,000-square foot addition and renovation, with 92 inmate beds, with the ability to increase that number to 124 beds with so-called ‘double-bunking.’
The project also includes major security upgrades, as well as a new sheriffs, deputy, and detective offices. The facility will also have a large, drive-through sallyport for safe transfer of prisoners, which is large enough to allow a bus to even be used, in cases of mass evacuation or for other needs, such as vehicle evidence investigation.
The new jail also includes an expanded, dedicated dispatch center that means the dispatch and jailer duties will finally be separated; Burnett County is one of the last remaining counties in the state that shares those duties with one position.