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SAN FRANCISCO -- The California state fire marshal ordered roughly 3,000 convenience stores and gas stations, which is around one-third of all the stations in the state, to remove the latches that allow patrons to fill up their gas tanks hands free, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
After the hold-open latches on at least 13 Vapor System Technologies brand nozzles failed, spewing gasoline on patrons or the ground, the order was made said Daniel Berlant, the spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which represents the fire marshal's office in the newspaper report.
"All of them occurred when people prepaid at the pump and the nozzle got stuck on prior to it getting into the gas tank," Berlant said. "The malfunction somehow allowed the gasoline to freely run through even when patrons were not holding down that lever."
A total of seven out of 13 incidents confirmed by the California Air Resources Board involved consumers who were sprayed with gasoline, although most of the cases were minor, Berlant said in the report, explaining the problem was found only in the nozzles made by Vapor System Technologies and has something to do with the springs that hold open the latch.
The VST brand has been in use since 2007, but the first reported problem did not occur until this past May, Berlant said in the report. The fire marshal's office, Air Resources Board, VST and petroleum industry representatives are developing a new nozzle, but it is not clear when the replacement will be available.
The 3,000 station owners or operators must remove the suspect latches by Oct. 15, a simple procedure that can be done by a technician at very little cost, Berlant said.