Check it before burning. This season of holiday entertaining made us want to break out the kindling and enjoy some gatherings around the old fireplace. The really, old, fireplace. Living in a building that was constructed in 1880, and having only lived in our place for about 6 months, we realized we really need to have the flue checked out before lighting up for holiday parties. A little research led us to this clear and informative guide on NY fireplace inspections...
Even if the draw is strong and pulls smoke upward very well, there is the chance that cracks in a flue will let smoke escape into the apartments of upstairs neighbors. The article above outlines precautions you can take, like having a chimney scan inspection done.
So, be sure to take the time at the start of this season to get to know your chimney if you don't already. -regina
(ReEdited from 2006-12-04 - MGR)