Question: I found your page on the web. Good stuff. I've been trying to find an answer to a question. What do you do with the ashes from previous fires. Some people clean their fireplace every time. Other people leave as much ashes as possible- saying the ashes act as insulation- creating a more efficient fire. My opinion. Clean it out. It seems the hot coals generate a lot of heat- and when they fall in a thick pile of ashes- the heat is lost. However- I am writing you to get an experts opinion. Answer: Ah! What is the meaning of life ? Like most questions- there are many answers. Depends on whether a grate is used..and if it's a stove or a fireplace. As Buddha said "The Middle Way" --- some ashes are good - as they help the coal bed last for a longer period (since they don;t allow as much air through the fire)....but- as you said- too much ash compared to coals and wood can smother the fire. So- you're probably good when you err to the side of less ash.If a long or overnight fire is critical...lots of ash will help.Also- the way you bank the fire is critical...if the ashes are more toward the rear they will help hold the fire and allow the hot embers in the front to radiate your way.