Something I use alot in my fireplace as well as my furnace is a pair of long handle BBQ tongs. I have a spring loaded pair that you can get for a few bucks at a resturaunt whosale suply store. They are stamped out stainless steel. Work great for grabbing a piece or a few pieces of coal or wood especially when your lighting your fire.
I also use fire starter sticks to light my coal. I have heard its not a good idea but I lay mine on top of a piece of flat slab wood larger than the fire starter and I have had no problems. It burns up right along with the slab wood. No wax residue and from there I build a small hardwood fire to get my Anthricite going.