Danbury teen honored for heroic effort

Rylie Snorek received a special honor last week from Burnett County Sheriff Tracy Finch for a February lifesaving effort.

Burnett County Sheriff Tracy Finch honored Webster High School student Rylie Snorek with a special award last Wednesday, May 17, at the Danbury Fire Hall, as the high school junior was given accolades for his heroism during an incident several months ago. 

Sheriff Finch outlined why he was deserving: “On Feb. 3, 2022, Riley was following a friend to school on a rural road. Riley saw that his friend’s vehicle was on fire. The vehicle became fully engulfed in flames. His friend was unable to get himself out of the vehicle. Riley risked his own life and assisted his friend to exit the vehicle.”

The incident garnered regional attention, and while Snorek has underplayed his actions, the sheriff was truly touched by his bravery: “Riley is a true hero. He is very deserving of this award.”

Snorek lives in the Danbury area and has also been a cadet firefighter for the Danbury Fire Department for the past three years. 

“It’s something everyone should have done,” Rylie said last February when asked. “It was lucky I was there.”

Finch said she was honored by giving him the award, which reads: “Hero Award - Presented to Rylie Snorek, In recognition of your selfless and courageous act of rendering aid in a sudden and unexpected situation. -  Burnett County Sheriff’s Office.”

Past reports detail the incident further, noting that it started when Rylie was following his friend, Caleb Smith, from his house outside Danbury to school in Webster. It was at about 6:45 in the morning that Thursday, Feb. 3, when something went very wrong with his friend Caleb’s older Chevrolet pickup. According to Snorek, 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 gasoline. 

Snorek said that the sudden blaze also affected the electronics on the truck, and the door locks apparently froze up on Caleb’s truck. 

“Maybe the electronics got fried, I don’t know, but I was able to open the door from the outside, though,” Rylie said, adding that the truck was quickly engulfed in flames, and he was lucky to have been able to get him out. 

“Yeah, the truck went up really fast,” he added. “I got him out as quick as I could … and there wasn’t much truck left by the time (firefighters) arrived.”

While he might say that anybody would have acted as he did, he’s had accolades pour in from around the region, including from his fellow firefighters. 

“I’m just glad it turned out okay,” Rylie said matter-of-factly, and while his quick thinking and bravery may have been a gift to his friend, who will never forget his friends’ courage, the incident also will always be easy for Rylie to remember when it occurred: “And it was on my birthday!”