The residents of the tiny north Lebanon village of Fatri were calling it a miracle Monday morning as they emerged from their homes into a watery dawn. Twenty-four hours earlier, orange flames had leaped from tree to tree up the precipitous slopes of the densely wooded Adonis Valley, nearly cutting off isolated Fatri and its 2,000 inhabitants perched high above the Ibrahim River. The residents had abandoned the futile battle against the fire, which had been burning for a week, and had retreated into their homes and the small village church to pray for rain. Deliverance came two hours before dawn Monday when Lebanon received its first rainfall in more than two months.
“We had given up trying to save the forest but were thinking only of saving our homes, families and babies. We all prayed for the fire to go out and it did. It’s a miracle,” said Bashir Gemayel, an official of the Fatri municipality. The cloudburst helped douse more than 120 fires nationwide that had turned forests of Mediterranean oak and umbrella-pine trees and farmers’ olive groves, almond trees, vineyards and cherry and apple orchards into blackened wastelands.