Surviving Alaska: Man Survives More Than 20 Days in Alaska After Cabin Goes up in Flames

   01.14.20

On Thursday, January 9, a man was rescued in the Alaskan wilderness after spending weeks alone in freezing temperatures and living out of a makeshift shelter built from what was left of his burned down cabin.

30-year-old Tyson Steele had been living in a ‘cabin’ – made of carefully placed tarps and wooden planks – in the remote Susitna Valley, northwest of Anchorage. His nearest neighbor lived about 20 miles away, in the small community of Skwentna.

Steele has trouble recalling the exact night his little hut went up in flames, but he believes it was either December 17 or 18 after burning a large piece of cardboard in his wood fire stove.

“It started with a pretty hasty mistake,” Steele recalled. I’ve had woodstoves all my life. I knew that you don’t do that. So, it sent a spark out through the chimney which landed on the roof.”

Later that night, he woke up to find “fiery drips of plastic” raining down from the roof, and jumped into action. He ran outside in boots and long johns to gather some snow to try and put the fire out, but discovered the whole roof was already ablaze.

He frantically ran back inside to grab blankets and his rifle while the shelter quickly filled with smoke. He hollered at his 6-year-old chocolate lab, Phil, to get outside while he was collecting supplies but the dog never made it out of the burning cabin.

“I was hysterical,” he told police. “I have no words for what sorrow; it was just, just a scream.. Felt like I tore my lungs out.”

In the morning, Steele took inventory of the supplies he was able to save, and estimated he had enough food to eat twice a day for 30 days. He spent the first two nights in a small cave with barely enough space to fit his sleeping bags and some food. He then built a more comfortable shelter around the woodstove that once heated his tarp and lumber home.

After more than 20 days, a large “SOS” signal was spotted and Steele was rescued.

In aerial footage posted to the Alaska State Trooper’s Facebook page, Steele can be seen just minutes before the rescue, waving his arms next to the desperate message he wrote in the snow.

The following is from the Alaska State Troopers Facebook post:

“On Thursday, January 9, Helo 3 responded to a request for a welfare check on Tyson Steele, age 30, at his remote homestead approximately 20 miles outside of Skwentna. He had not been heard from for several weeks. Late that morning, Helo 3 pilot Cliff Gilliland and Tactical Flight Officer Zac Johnson located Steele waving his arms near a makeshift shelter. An SOS signal was stamped in the snow outside. His cabin had burned down in mid-December killing his dog and leaving him stranded in subzero temperatures with no cabin, and no means of communication, for 23 days.”

Read the story in Steele’s own words here.

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