How a man survived in Alaska for over 3 weeks after cabin burnt down
Lost in the snowy wilderness of Alaska
Tyson Steele, who was rescued by helicopter on Thursday, said his cabin -- located 20 miles (30 kilometers) from the nearest neighbour -- was incinerated in mid-December, and his beloved dog Phil died in the blaze.
In pic: This Alaska State Trooper handout photo obtained shows a member of the Alaska State Troopers speaking with Tyson Steele, 30(L), who was rescued having survived more than 20 days in subzero temperatures after his cabin in a remote area of the Susitna Valley burned down.
"The mistake I made, I got hasty and I put a big piece of cardboard in the stove to start the fire," Steele said. "It sent a spark out through the chimney which landed on the roof."
He awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of melting plastic dripping and rushed outside in minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 26 degrees Celsius) temperatures to find his cabin ablaze.
At first, he thought his six-year-old chocolate Labrador had escaped safely.
"My dog starts howling, right? Inside. And I thought he was not inside... I was hysterical," he said. "I have no words for what sorrow; it was just a scream... that's all I could express -- just scream. (It) felt like I tore my lung out."
In pic: A video released by Alaska State Troopers shows the moment officials found Tyson Steele in a makeshift shelter about 20 miles outside of Skwentna, Alaska. (Alaska State Troopers)
Eating a long-awaited McDonald's and still wearing some of the same clothes, Steele gave an interview to the State Troopers unit, which described him as appearing "vaguely reminiscent of actor Tom Hanks' character in the movie 'Cast Away'."
Steele told how his phone failed, his snow boots were lost in the flames, and that he made a survival plan hoping that his lack of communication with friends and family would trigger a search mission.
"I figured I had two cans a day for 30 days... The thing was, maybe half of those cans, they've heated up and popped open and the smoke's circulating inside the can. It tastes like my home, just burning."
He had been living alone at the cabin -- originally built by a Vietnam War veteran -- in Susitna Valley only since September, and he did not have a map.
Steele said he was going to stay with his parents in Salt Lake City to recover.
"They've got a dog," he said. "And that would be some therapy. "The worst part of all of this -- I can survive 23 days again -- but my dog was in there, asleep by my side."