Alex Tizon: They found what was left of him in the spring of 2014. Firefighters battling a huge blaze on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula first spotted a boot in the dirt. Then they noticed some bones scattered across a wide grassy area. Fire crews in Alaska are used to seeing the bones of moose, caribou, bears, and other large creatures that live and die in these woods. So it wasn’t until crew members found a human skull that they stopped to consider that the pieces might go together. The skull was resting on its side, the face angled toward the ground. A few blackened molars clung to the upper jaw. The lower jaw was missing.
The Alaska State Troopers arrived by helicopter and salvaged what they could. “The bones were close to being ash,” Lieutenant Kat Shuey later recalled. “They weren’t quite to the point where if you touched them they would disintegrate, but close.”
The remains were spread across an area about 60 yards in diameter, presumably the work of scavenging animals. Also found at the site were three hunting knives, two quarters, two metal buttons, a zipper, and part of a Samsung mobile phone. All of the items were charred to varying degrees, like most everything else in the path of the Funny River Fire, which burned nearly 200,000 acres in the western lowlands of the Kenai Peninsula, a remote corner of this remote part of the world, a place one local described as “the middle of the middle of nowhere.”