Alaska man survives three weeks with little food and shelter

Video: Alaska Man Rescued After Writing SOS on Snow, Waving Down Trooper Helicopter Crew

Tyson Steele says he was stuck in the freezing Alaska wilderness for more than three weeks after making one huge mistake: He put a piece of cardboard in his old wood-burning stove and a spark ignited the roof of a cabin he describes in an Alaska Department of Public Safety report as a "plastic Quonset hut".

It had happened suddenly, in the middle of the night on December 17 or 18 - he lost track of the days, according to a detailed news release and interview with Steele published by the Alaska State Troopers.

He started grabbing everything he could, including blankets and a rifle but his real priority was his six-year-old chocolate lab, Phil.

Fortunately for Steele, he never had to make the journey; Alaskan State Troopers were asked to carry out a welfare check and on January 9, about 23 days after the fire, the helicopter rescue team saw him alive and well alongside the ruin of his cabin and his SOS message. I just huddled into that dark cave and I slept.

"I'm probably going to go back home to Salt Lake City", he told troopers. Just a visceral - not angry, not sad - just. all I could express, just scream. An SOS signal was stamped in the snow outside. "I knew that you don't do that", he told authorities.

"He was so scared of the fire and in my thinking I've gotta grab Phil and I've gotta grab some stuff to sleep in so I basically".

Steele really did not have much time to grieve, however, because he required a survival strategy, he stated.

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He didn't know enough about the surrounding area, including which of the many waterways in the area would be frozen over enough to cross.

Now that he's been rescued, Steele said he plans to reunite with his family.

The Utah native survived on cans of beans and peanut butter before he was rescued. But a lot of the food had popped open in the heat of the blaze, he said, and mixed with the smoke of his burning hut.

Steele's friends eventually called troopers to check on him, and on January 9 a troopers helicopter crew landed to rescue him, according to the report.

"It broke another rule that I had established for years, and that had to be strict in my weekly communication - call my parents and let them know I'm good", he complained. "That's a very really thought that crept up nearly daily, especially in real cold nights", said Steele. He then built another shelter using scrap lumber and scavenged tarps to build a tent-like domed structure.

Pilot Cliff Gilliland and Tactical Flight Officer Trooper Zac Johnson rescued him, the agency said.

Steele was airlifted by police to Anchorage to be examined, where he also got a shower and McDonald's No. 2 combo.

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