August 22, 2001 11:00 pm

Saturdays fire that consumed a house and outbuildings in a residential area of La Grande should serve as a reminder to everyone about the importance of minimizing fire danger. The fire, which was started by a couple of boys playing with fireworks, could have easily spread to other nearby properties and houses.

The issue that the public needs to be concerned about isnt so much about kids who did something careless, though we all can learn from their mistake. Those kids know only too well that the choice they made about what they did that day wasnt a good one. Conditions werent suitable for sparks of any kind. Thank goodness the kids had the sense to report the fire they had inadvertently started.

The issue that the public at large needs to consider is the importance of reducing fire risk on vacant lots in and around the city. Letting weeds and grass grow to the point that they become a fire hazard is an open invitation to disaster. A spark could ignite a neighborhood. In the case of Saturdays fire, one nearly did.

THE fire quickly spread to a vacant house and its outbuildings. Conditions the dryness and the wind made for a dangerous situation. The fact that uncut weeds surrounded the area made the potential for disaster even greater. The city had to call for support from neighboring fire departments to help quell the potential for disaster. Neighbors took up garden hoses to spray down their own properties in the event a spark landed nearby.

The city has laws that require people to abate weed nuisances in the summer. Property owners and the city need to take the laws seriously. Tall, dry weeds create a fire hazard. A carelessly tossed cigarette butt, a spark from a vehicle or careless play can result in a fire.

Thank goodness no one was hurt in Saturdays fire. Still, we can learn from the experience. Fireworks and dry summers dont mix. And sparks of any kind combined with dry summers and combustible materials such as weeds invite disaster. We must do everything we can to reduce the fire danger around us. And the city needs to make sure we do by enforcing the law.

Ideas on health plan?

The state is preparing to expand the Oregon Health Plan. Doing so will result in changes in benefits for some of the people already covered by the plan that provides health insurance for those who fall between the gaps of Medicare and private insurance. The Oregon Health Council is seeking input at a meeting Friday on how the state should rank services such as dental, prescription drugs, non-emergency transportation, vision care and general medical care.

Anyone who has an opinion about coverage should plan to attend. The meeting is one of seven being held around the state and the only one east of Bend to gather input. The meeting is set for 6 to 8 p.m. at the Blue Mountain Conference Center. Participants could help shape a plan that is designed to help their neighbors.