[Editor's Note: The following is written by Jason Bernstein, deputy fire marshal for the town of New Milford.]

Of all the seasons, spring has the highest fire rate across the country.

The following are some fire prevention tips for the spring.

Around the house

-It is illegal in the state of Connecticut to burn leaves, garbage, construction materials, grass, shipping pallets and magazines.

-It is approved to burn brush under three inches in diameter with a burn permit signed by a local burning official.

-In the town of New Milford, open burning is only allowed when the air quality is good, and the fire danger is low.

Check with your local burning official to see when open burning is allowed.

-Air quality and fire danger information is available 24/7 at www.ct.gov/dep.

-When having an outdoor fire for debris removal or recreation, be sure to have water nearby in case the fire gets out of control.

Prior to lighting the fire, clear the area three feet back from the fire of leaves and dried grass by using a rake or leaf blower.

-Never leave an outdoor fire unattended.

-Be aware that the ground dries easily in the spring, and rain the day before you plan to burn may not constitute safe burning conditions.

-On outdoor air conditioner units, remove the door to the electrical components to check for and remove any animal nests.

-Perform maintenance to lawn equipment.

Let motors run to ensure they are running properly, watch for leaks and unusual noises.

Let the equipment sit for approximately 30 minutes before placing it inside to be sure there is no possibility of fire.

-Do not fuel equipment indoors, in confined spaces, or while the equipment is running.

-Make sure vents, filters and air handlers are clean and de-winterized.

-Remove winter decorations.

-Check all outdoor lighting for animal nests and to ensure proper wiring.

-Check proper functioning of extension cords, there should not be any sharp bends or splits.

-Change smoke detector batteries.

Cooking Safety

-Check and clean the gas lines and pipes on propane and natural gas grills.

Spiders nest and form webs in the pipes preventing the proper flow of gas. This can cause a fire.

-Do not place grills, stoves, or outdoor chimneys near a house.

-Coals and ashes can hold heat for days. Do not place coals or ashes in the garbage, or carelessly dispose of them.

-Thoroughly extinguish fires and use plenty of water.

A fire is properly extinguished when your hand feels light heat approximately an inch above where the fire was.

-Do not leave cooking unattended.

-Immediately shut off burners after use, make sure they are off, and not on low.

-If you have a cooking related fire, do not panic. Follow these steps:

-Call 911.

-Do not use water.

-Use a dry chemical fire extinguisher if one is available.

-Dry baking soda may be used to extinguish a fire. Do not use flour.

-Calmly place the lid or a damp rag over the top of the involved pot or pan.

-Turn off the burner.

-Calmly walk the covered pot or pan outside.

For more information, visit www.newmilford.org and click on "government," "departments" and "fire marshal's office," www.homesafeycouncil.org, www.firesafety.gov and www.usfa.dhs.gov/citizens, or call the fire marshal's office in New Milford at 860-355-6099.