On September 5 a man set a fire in Denali National Park in Alaska in order to attract attention so that he could be rescued. Robert Faber, a 39-year old Canadian, had taken a 20-foot fall the previous evening in a remote area of the park, lost most of his gear and suffered fractures to his arm and lower spine. He tried to hike out and made it about 10 miles from the accident scene until he ran out of strength. He decided he had two choices: die there or set a signal fire. He chose the latter, starting a fire on a bench of dwarf birch above the Sanctuary River.
A story in the Alaska Dispatch compares Faber’s situation to one that occurred almost exactly 17 years earlier involving Chris McCandless which was turned into a 1996 book by Jon Krakauer titled “Into the Wild”. In 2007 Sean Penn made it into a movie with the same title. McCandless’ body, in a sleeping bag in a bus, was found about 25 miles from Robert Faber’s signal fire. McCandless’ diary said he thought he was dying from eating seeds that were poisonous. One wonders why he didn’t start a fire to attract attention.
Mr. Farber’s fire was reported to the National Park’s dispatch center. At that time rangers Dan Fangen-Gritis and Matt Smith were being extracted by the park’s helicopter after completing a moose-hunting patrol. They diverted the helicopter to the smoke and saw Mr. Farber waving with one arm. He was evacuated and then flown to Fairbanks by air ambulance for medical treatment. National Park Service firefighters put out the fire after it had burned 4 acres, assisted by 40 bucket drops from the helicopter.