We have a lot of fires in the fireplace in the Gruggen household. As in every single night. We start burning in September and go through until early May. We burn 10 full cords of wood every season with maybe enough wood left over at the end to make a couple of boxes of toothpicks. We only burn oak as it burns the longest and gives off the most heat.
I am particularly anal about building my fires. Each fire is built with precisely 13 logs. That makes a huge fire. When the boys were little, they called them "roar fires" for the enormous rushing sound the logs make when they all catch fire. The fire is built with 2 large logs across the bottom of the grate, then layered with 3-2-3-2-1 in ascending order. I build it so that the logs tip back at an angle. That ensures that the fire collapses backwards as it burns, away from the fireplace screen.
Way back in antiquity I received a fire stone as a gift. Once you've had one, you can't imagine going back to newspaper and kindling to start a fire. It's essentially a small cast iron box with a porous, ceramic stone inside. You pour some kerosene on the stone, wait 5 minutes, then light it and slide it under your logs. Within 5 minutes you will have achieved "roar fire". Just leave the fire stone under your fire and retrieve it the next day when it has cooled.
A fire stone lasts forever...the one I have is nearly 30 years old. They only cost about $17. Here's an example of one that is available on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Cast-Iron-Firestarter-Tray-FS-C1137/dp/B000WCCB8U. Instead of kerosene, I use a product called Klean Heat. It has no odor and gives off no smoke or soot. I buy mine at Home Depot: http://www.homedepot.com/buy/outdoors-garden-center-animal-pest-control-insect-mosquito/klean-strip-klean-heat-odorless-fuel-gallon-192853.html
Tonight's "roar fire" in-waiting with my fire stone.