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Firefighters try to "get a death grip" on massive Canada wildfire

Nearly 90,000 evacuees could face a long wait to go home
Firefighters making some progress on Canada wildfire 02:37

The Fort McMurray wildfire in Alberta, Canada has destroyed about 620 square miles, nearly the size of Houston. Thanks to much cooler weather and even a few raindrops, however, firefighters say they are finally making some progress, reports CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy.

The police have beefed up their presence at roadblocks because they tell CBS News somebody actually snuck into Fort McMurray and tried to burn their house down to collect insurance money.

This fire has now been nicknamed "The Beast," and it's not hard to see why. Walls of flame continue to turn trees into torches while air tankers overhead do their best to keep up.

"For us, this is great firefighting weather. We can really get in there and really get a handle on this fire and really get a death grip on it," Alberta wildfire manager Chad Morrison said.

The fires are so large and in such rugged terrain that the firefight is mainly taking place in the sky. More than 100 water-dropping helicopters are now flying in Alberta.

Massive wildfire in Alberta, Canada continues to grow 02:17

The fire is still expected to takes months to extinguish and has shut down most of Alberta's vast oil production. However, it is now burning mainly in the forest and away from towns that were once in its path. In burned-out Fort McMurray, there is no electricity, gas lines have been turned off, and the water is not drinkable. From above you can see many neighborhoods have burned but many others were spared.

"It's like an eye of a tornado, I mean, you see devastation all around you, but in the center, it's calm, there's no devastation as far as downtown goes," Canadian parliament member David Yurdiga said.

The government says it could be weeks or months before people are allowed to return. Nearly 90,000 evacuees face a long wait to go home.

"I'm terrified of what the drive is going to be going back into Fort McMurry," Christine Cook said.

Cook fled Fort McMurray last week as the fire tore through the town. An evacuation center and the donations from strangers are a lifeline for her and her two daughters, even if this wasn't how she planned to spend Mother's Day.

"I'm thankful I have my family and I have a roof over my head. I have all that I need," Cook said.

The 25,000 people who originally fled north of Fort McMurray only to find the fire headed towards them have now been safely moved south of town to evacuation centers.

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