In the movies, people on fire stumble out of burning buildings all the time. If you look closely, however, you’ll notice that they are almost always fully dressed, and that they tend to keep moving. These are two important factors that make the stunt much easier.
To function and avoid injury while on fire, you need to put something between yourself and the flames. But you can’t coat yourself with plain water because it just runs off. So stuntpeople use clothes containing super-absorbent polymer fibers, which keeps the water in place (it’s pretty much the same material used in diapers). A layer of clothes treated this way will keep them cool for quite a while, but they have to continue to move forward so the breeze keeps the flames out of their uncovered face.
Because we needed my hand to be perfectly still for the camera, I couldn’t use any movement to help stay cool, and my hand started to feel pretty warm after just a few seconds—but not before we got photographic proof that my meeting excuse was for real!
ACHTUNG! Do not try this—people who play with fire get burned. This stunt requires professional training and preparation, and still there are plenty of things that can go wrong.