First, welcome to the forums - I think you found a great place to start your beekeeping experience here. Hundred and hundreds of beekeeper of all experience levels from around the globe, most of us could only dream of such access when we first started this wonderful hobby. Back in my beginning at 14/15 I had a schoolmate for a mentor and hands-on experience that realy interested me.
Today, we live in a much different world and having the resources available today can really get you off to a great start - but no resource is better than interaction with others as in this and other forums. Learning through trial and and errors of others gives you a tremendous advantage when starting in this hobby.
Keep away from anything that has man made fibers, plastics, petrol fuels in old rags. Also, keep away from these fireplace starter sticks (usually packaged at camping supply stores) and always make sure your fuel source is clean and mildew free.
As you have read, there are a lot of things you can burn, but the one thing you can't burn is your bees - as Beth said, smoke, not fire and keep the smoker back far enough from the hive entrance so that it can air-cool a little as it is bellowed in.
Again, welcome to the forums - I hope we see you here often.