Man Survives 23 Days In Alaskan Wilderness After Cabin Burns Down

January 13, 2020

A man survived 23 days in the subzero temperatures of the Alaskan wilderness after his remote cabin burned down.

Tyson Steele, 30, was rescued on Thursday, January 9, by Alaska State Troopers at his remote homestead approximately 20 miles outside of Skwentna -- miles and miles from the nearest road system.

A helicopter found the 30-year-old waving for help with "SOS" carved in the snow.

"Steele's shoulder-length hair, chestnut brown near the roots fading to golden blond near its frayed tips, hung matted and dreadlocks-like over his neck. His auburn beard flowed untrimmed to his chest. The combination made him seem vaguely reminiscent of actor Tom Hanks' character in the movie 'Cast Away'," Alaska State Trooper Ken Marsh wrote.


Steele told police the roof of his cabin had caught fire after he burned a "big piece of cardboard" in his woodstove. Steele said he managed to grab a handful of supplies from his burning cabin but most of his possessions didn't make it.

His phone was dead with no way to charge it.

"He had no snow machine. And his nearest neighbor was 20 miles away, in the tiny community of Skwentna," Trooper Marsh noted. "Steele's only way in or out of the wilderness was by air charter."

The first two nights Steele said he slept in a snow cave.

"I just huddled into that dark cave and I slept," he said. "I slept for a really long time. And it was, it was warm. Warmer than outside."

His next goal was to build a shelter that was a little more comfortable. He scavenged tarps and scrap lumber to build a tent-like domed shelter around the wood stove that have once heated his cabin.

"Once I got the second shelter built, I kept a fire in the wood stove perpetually. And I basically use that to heat up my food. It's not about keeping the shelter warm, because it basically just took that edge off. And one night, the 17th [night], it was so cold, and I just didn't want to go outside. So I took a bucket to go pee in. And the bucket is only a couple feet away from this fireplace and it freezes, my pee freezes within a few minutes next to the fireplace. That gives you an idea. It's by no means a cozy cabin that I was able to put together. It just took the edge off. I could still see my breath, but at least I wasn't suffering."

Alaska State Troopers said when the 30-year-old was discovered on Jan. 9 he was transported by helicopter to the Alaska State Trooper's Aircraft Section Hangar at Lake Hood. Rescuers set him up with a shower and fulfilled his request for a McDonald's Combo Meal #2.

Steele told police his plans, for now, are to go Salt Lake City to be with his family.

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