Since we moved into our trailer this spring, I've wanted to be able to use the fireplace that came with it. It's set up for burning wood, though my grandfather and I contemplated converting it over to run on natural gas in 2000. He passed away in early 2001 and the idea died as well. My grandmother was adamant about not using it because it always stunk up of the house and it never worked right.
Today, I finally figured it out and not only does it not smell up the house, it actually burns the wood and heats the front of the house to some extent.
First thing is the wood. You need wood that has been seasoned at least one year to remove the moisture. It will burn, but it won't heat up nearly as much if it's fresh cut. Don't burn soft or evergreen wood either, as it will smell up the place and deposit more creosote on the chimney. Use hardwood from a local seller and skip the stuff from the gas station or grocery store. These will burn quickly and not heat at all. Next you need a barbecue lighter and some heavy paperboard or cardboard to get the fire started. Don't use charcoal or lighter fluid to start the wood up, use some kind of tinder instead. Those drink carriers from Wendy's or McDonald's work very well.
Stack up the wood and put the paper between the logs, but don't light it yet. Open the main damper to the fireplace vent or if you can, open it partway. If there's another damper for combustion air, open this all the way. If there isn't an outside air damper, you might want to rethink using the fireplace. Go ahead and light the tinder, close the screens and make sure the doors are closed tightly. Once the fire gets going, (as long as the lever for the damper is outside the fireplace or you need to leave it open all the way to start with) open the damper all the way. You'll want to use the fireplace poker to move the logs as the burn down to keep the flames going while they're on the rack. Once they burn down to coals, let them burn themselves out before you remove them from the fireplace. If you want to add more wood, this is the time. but don't let the coals build up too much. Once they cool down, take them out of the fireplace with a shovel and dump them in a metal container. Not as easy as using a gas fireplace, but more authentic. Maranatha!