SALEM, Ore. -

Whether it's human nature or just wishful thinking, we tend to relax our guard against wildfire this time of year at the first signs of the seasonal transition. In the heart of summer amid triple-digit temperatures, we almost expect raging b

lazes like the Oregon Gulch Fire that consumed 1,000 acres an hour at its peak. While such extreme fire behavior may be less likely now, the dragon can still breathe flames.

This week, both the Douglas Forest Protective Association and the Oregon Department of Forestry's Southwest Oregon District announced a rise in the Industrial Fire Precaution Level in their jurisdictions due to hot, dry conditions in the forest.

A map charting significant fire potential (http://nfdrs.smkmgt.com/sfp/ODF_Significant_Fire_Potential.htm) shows most of the state at "high," with the southwest corner registering "extreme." Lands in either classification can spawn a large, destructive fire.

The potential for dry lightning - the cause of Oregon's largest fires - historically diminishes in late summer.

As the threat from Nature recedes, though, human activity comes to the fore as the chief wildfire concern.

Forest fuels are still bone-dry and primed to burn. If we take extra care when recreating or working in the forest, human-caused fires can be prevented.

The Keep Oregon Green Association (www.keeporegongreen.org/) offers common-sense advice on how to prevent fires when camping and recreating in the forest.