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Close the flue on fireplaces when you go on vacation, or, for that matter, when you don't have a fire going, says Richard A. Greenwood.

His advice is based on experience.He forgot to close the flue on his fireplace and when he and his family returned home recently from a two-week vacation, they found their home in a mess. A bird had flown into the chimney through the open flue and had camped out in their home for some time, possibly a week, by the looks of the interior.

Greenwood, an accident reconstruction specialist with the Utah Highway Patrol, said he found the bird dead in a corner of the living room fireplace. It had left its droppings in practically every room in the house.

"We are still finding the little gems," Greenwood said.

The UHP sergeant said he and his wife locked all the doors and windows of their home before they left and the last place in the world they would have expected a visitor to get in was through the fireplace chimney.