Man survives weeks in Alaskan wilderness after cabin burns down
A 30-year-old man survived 20 days in a makeshift shelter in the remote Alaska wilderness after his cabin burned down in mid-December.
Tyson Steele was found by Alaska State Troopers during a welfare check on Thursday, Jan. 9. He was discovered by helicopter and had "SOS" written in the snow in large letters.
“It started with a pretty hasty mistake. My woodstove is very, very old. The mistake I made, I got hasty and I put a big piece of cardboard in the stove to start the fire," he said. "Which I knew was a problem, I’ve had woodstoves all my life. I knew that you don’t do that."
Steel said he realized that the cabin was set ablaze when "fiery drops" from the roof awoke him in the middle of the night.
According to Alaska Troopers, Steele was 20 miles away from the nearest neighbor when the cabin he had been living in since September started on fire on Dec. 17 or 18, when it was -15 degrees.
The first two nights after losing his cabin, Steele slept in a snow cave with sleeping bags he aid with the insulation it can be up to 50 degrees warmer in the snow cave than outside.
Steele then built two shelters and had a woodstove perpetually burning to keep him warm and heat up his food.
"I’m not exactly trained. I’ve just always been in the outdoors. And in the outdoor industry," Steele said "My first job back in high school for five years I worked at a gear shop, so I was familiar with all the technical, you know, fire starting equipment. Axes, bush craft.......I had some matches and I carried a candle with me – one candle that I found – and that can stay lit. And I always had several pieces of birch bark. Birch bark is great for starting fires. And it was also my light quite often in the snow cave."
Steele said that if he had not been rescued by his 35th day in the wilderness, he would have attempted to walk toward civilization, even though it took him days to go a quarter mile because he was ill-equipped to travel the almost five feet of snow.
Now, he says he's going back to Utah.
“I’m probably going to go back home to Salt Lake City," he said. "Not ‘back’ home, because this is my home...but to my family.” They’ve got a dog, and that would be some therapy."
While waiting to be rescued, Steele lost his 6-year-old lab Phil.