A Utah man was rescued from the Alaskan wilderness three weeks after a fire burnt his house to the ground and killed his dog.
Tyson Steele, 30, was found in the rubble of his Susitna Valley home on Thursday morning, according to the Alaska State Troopers’ news release. The search for Steele began when his friends had asked authorities to perform a welfare check after they had not heard from him.
Alaska State Troopers shared footage from the rescue, which showed Steele standing in the snow waving his arms to troops in a helicopter while standing beside a massive SOS signal carved in the snow.
Steele recalled to troopers that he woke up in the middle of the night three weeks ago and heard plastic melting from the roof. Once he went outside, he saw that the entire roof was on fire.
“So, it starts dripping and it, it goes up into flames faster than, like, I can even imagine,” he recalled.
Steele said that as he began retrieving important items and evacuated the house, he believed his 6-year-old chocolate Labrador, Phil, had also made it out safely. But he was wrong.
“I was hysterical,” Steele said. “Right? I had no logic. Nothing. … I have no words for what sorrow; it was just, just a scream.”
Having to focus on his survival, Steele said that he was unsure if the waterways in the area would be frozen over enough to cross. So he decided to gather any remaining canned goods to survive as long as he could.
“The thing was, maybe half of those cans, they’ve heated up and popped open and the smoke’s circulating inside the can – plastic, whatever, insulation. So, it tastes like my home, just burning,” he said.
Since Steele lost his phone in the fire, he decided to wait things out and hope that someone would call for a welfare check. He said if no one came after 35 days, he would venture out of the area.
While waiting for rescue, Steele slept in a snow cave the first two nights before he made a shelter that he built around his wood stove. He created the SOS signal using ash from the fire to make it more visible.
On Jan. 9 — three weeks after he was left stranded — Steele saw the Alaska State Trooper’s helicopter flying above him.
The rescuers gave Steele a shower and meal from McDonald’s as he recounted his story to them. Now that he’s been rescued, Steele said he plans to reunite with his family.
“I’m probably going to go back home to Salt Lake City. Not ‘back’ home, because this is my home,” he said, “but to my family.”
“They’ve got a dog,” he added. “And that would be some therapy.”