Hi, Tom and Richard. Check out a product called Peel Away at specialty paint stores. They make several different kinds so work with you dealer to see what looks like it will work best versus what they can get. This is fairly expensive but it does work. The home centers sometimes carry it but usually only one of their formulations and I think that you would be better served by having a choice.
Tommy, be careful about using wood close to the firebox opening. There are codes about how close you can use wood and, more importantly, you don't want to burn down your house.