As someone mentioned in another thread, it's easy to get your coal fire "upset" with you, at which point it rapidly goes out. Through experimentation I've come to the conclusion that, at least for me, the culprit in the upset fire is the loss of draft. I came to that conclusion by noticing that when I give the dying fire a shake or two in desperation, the light ash comes out of the ash door rather than getting sucked into the grate like usual. So, this afternoon when I went to load a fire which has been getting spotty the last couple days .. it was only burning on about 40% of the grate despite attempts to even it out .. it got to the point where it was on the way to outness. It had dying coals on the bottom and a couple inches of new coal on top. I decided to dump a pile of charcoal on top and shoved my propane charcoal lighter in the middle and got the charcoal going. Once the pile was going good I spread the charcoal coals evenly over the top of the coalbed. That seemed to get the draft going good and in about 15 minutes the coal on the bottom was bright orange and with a couple quick shakes I had a nice bed going again! It's now loaded up and burning fine. Your mileage may vary ..