The death of a Pukekohe man has prompted a warning for others living in converted commercial buildings to develop fire escape plans.

Peter Vile, 56, suffered severe burns at the blaze in his flat attached to a commercial building on Crosbie Rd on May 20 and later died in hospital.

Fire and Emergency fire risk management national manager Peter Gallagher said the fatality showed the importance of escape plans and having smoke alarms in all living areas, hallways and bedrooms.

"The second floor flat had an alarm in the hallway connecting the living area to the man's bedroom, but that was inadequate to give early enough warning for a safe escape.


"It is likely the victim only became aware of the fire when he opened the door to the hallway, at which point the fire was fully developed and he had no chance of escaping via the internal staircase, the only viable exit from the flat."

The burnt out remains of a flat over a warehouse in Pukekohe where Peter Vile died. Photo / Will Trafford
The burnt out remains of a flat over a warehouse in Pukekohe where Peter Vile died. Photo / Will Trafford

The tragedy highlighted the importance of having multiple working smoke alarms, Gallagher said.

"A single alarm is not always enough. The best alarm systems are connected. That way if a fire starts in one part of a building, people in other parts of the building have time to escape. That is particularly important in properties with only one exit."

Having an escape plan was also important.

"Once a fire starts you have less than five minutes to get out before you will be overcome by smoke, heat and fumes."

Bob Howard'Vile with his father Peter Vile at Bob's 21st birthday in June 2018. Photo / Supplied
Bob Howard'Vile with his father Peter Vile at Bob's 21st birthday in June 2018. Photo / Supplied

While investigators had not established the cause of the fire, it had started in the corner of the living area where Vile's television and entertainment centre was located, and where the remains of a multi-box were found.

Vile's son Bob Howard'Vile told the Herald his father brightened up a room.

"He always wanted to be the life of the party," Howard'Vile said.


"He was a bit of a troublemaker, in an innocent sense."

Vile loved chatting to people and just wanted to make others happy, he said.

"He always had the last laugh. He was an absolute hoot.

"He loved to have fun. He never grew up."

At first it had been difficult to believe what happened, as the motorcycle and car enthusiast had always bounced back from any scrapes or knocks, his son said.

But he had suffered burns to 80 per cent of his body in the fire and at the hospital his family were told he was not going to make it.

"There was only so much they could do," Howard'Vile said.

He said goodbye to his father at Middlemore Hospital that day.

"I hope he heard me."

A commercial builder by trade, Vile could be counted on to help others, he said.

"He was involved in a little bit of everything. He wasn't scared to get his hands dirty."

The 56-year-old worked at Vernon and Vazey Truck Parts Ltd across the road from his three-bedroom home.

The company has helped Howard'Vile move his father's belongings, a lifetime of memories.

"They took it in their stride, had a few beers and got it done.

"I just want to get across a big thank you, from both myself and Dad."

There were no words to describe how wonderful the community outpouring of support had been, he said.

Vile had recently lost a lot of mates.

His close-knit friends from the race track included Lawrence Webster, also known as Laurie, who died while racing at Meremere Dragway earlier this year.

"He was distraught when that happened."

But Howard'Vile said he liked to think Vile would be having a party "up there" with not only Webster, but good mates Sam Smith and Carl Vazey.

Lone Star Pukekohe had displayed a plaque in memory of Vile, a loyal patron.

"Our bar has lost our most loyal guest and friend. You brought so much cheer, laughter and joy to the bar", it reads.

"You cared so much for all the staff, who equally cared for you.

"You will forever be in our bar and our hearts."