In the heart of a suspenseful escape incident in Pennsylvania, we are given a glimpse into the intricate world of survival, evasion, and difficulties law enforcement must overcome to catch a fugitive on the loose. Our guide is none other than recently interviewed Craig Caudill, the Director and Instructor at the Nature Reliance School in Kentucky, renowned for his expertise in wilderness and survival training. Amid the ongoing search for Michael Burham, an escaped inmate with some self-taught survival skills and military training, FOX news asked for Craig Caudill's insights. This interview unveils the harsh realities and complex dynamics of survival in the wilderness, as well as the strategies for evading capture, all drawn from this unfolding, real-life scenario. Watch Craig's interview, and read more about the situation below.
Above: The Allegheny National forest is vast, spanning a little over 800 square miles.
The search for escaped inmate Michael C. Burham continues into its seventh day as of July 13th, 2023 in northwestern Pennsylvania. Burham is suspected of escaping by climbing on a pull-up exercise machine in the prison recreation yard, getting onto a roof, and sliding off the prison roof using a rope made of bedsheets which were tied together. He is wanted in connection with the fatal shooting of Kala Hodgkin, 34, and also accused of kidnapping an elderly couple, stealing their SUV, and fleeing to South Carolina.
Burham is described as a “self-taught survivalist with military training.” This includes 12 years as a Water Treatment Specialist (92W) and Utilities Equipment Repairer (91C) in the Army Reserve from February 2008 to December 2020. He had no deployments, and held the rank of Sergeant at the end of service. Col. George Bivens, deputy commissioner of operations for the Pennsylvania State Police, warns that Burham should be considered armed and dangerous.
The search for Burham has extended into the Allegheny National Forest, with authorities finding potential stockpiles and campsites believed to be connected to him. Rewards totaling $19,500 are offered for information leading to his capture. Multiple agencies are involved in the search, including the Pennsylvania State Police, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Border Patrol, and others.
Pennsylvania's Allegheny Forest, where the fugitive is presumed to be hiding, is a challenging environment. This mixed hardwood forest is a hotspot for insects and wildlife, presenting constant threats to safety and comfort. Craig explains that despite the forest having resources for survival, the rugged terrain, limited resources in some areas, and the need to evade law enforcement make this a daunting survival situation for the inmate.
Survival challenges that Burham faces are numerous, extending beyond evading law enforcement. Craig Caudill highlights that everybody, regardless of their situation, has core needs: safety, security, and maintaining a stable body temperature. These needs become more acute when trying to survive outdoors, where factors such as hydration and mental stress come into play. Craig points out the critical role of mindset in survival situations, and suggests that Burham's mental resilience and survival skills might be tested in the face of the physical, psychological, and environmental pressures he is dealing with.
Craig Caudill's insights go on to suggest that the constant mental strain of being hunted, dealing with harsh environmental factors, and possibly even encountering wildlife could be wearing Burham down. Without training and experience in handling stress in similar scenarios, the fugitive could find himself using up more of his energy reserves, both physically and mentally. This heightens his need for sustenance and water, simultaneously increasing his risks as he needs to source these from the environment. All of these factors cumulatively increase the likelihood of his capture, as they push him further into making potentially critical mistakes.
Above: Twisting water-ways and steep topography present numerous challenges to both law enforcement and fugitive alike.
In the face of a manhunt like this, it's essential to recognize the importance of community vigilance and collaboration with law enforcement. Craig Caudill's insights are an invaluable resource, however, it is important to remember that searching for a fugitive on your own is dangerous, should not be attempted, and is best left to the authorities. Meanwhile, it's crucial for the public to remain alert and maintain situational awareness, particularly those living in or around the Allegheny Forest. If anyone spots anything suspicious or has any information regarding the whereabouts of Michael Burham, they should immediately report it to the local law enforcement authorities. Public safety is paramount, and every bit of information, no matter how small it might seem, could be a vital piece in resolving this tense situation.
On July 15th, Burham was caught in the backyard of a Pennsylvania couple, Ron and Cindy Ecklund. The couple heard their dog barking and went to investigate, only to come face-to-face with Burham, who told them he was camping. The Ecklunds contacted the police, who arrested Burham and paid them a $2,000 cash reward. They may also receive additional rewards of $10,000 from Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers and $7,500 from the U.S. Marshals Service.
As for Burham, he was reportedly found with two bags of supplies including food and ammunition in “several different calibers,” although he did not appear to have a firearm at the time of his arrest. He was wearing a t-shirt and prison pants turned inside-out. In addition to his new escape charge, he will return to prison to face his previous charges of carjacking and kidnapping. He is also reportedly a suspect in homicide and rape cases in Jamestown, New York.