Red-faced firemen became a national laughing stock when their own fire station was gutted by a blaze.
Embarrassed officials at first tried to pass off the fire as a "training exercise." But at the flames began to engulf the station's interior they admitted that welders had set fire to a canister of petrol being stored nearby.
"Unfortunately it spread very quickly and was soon out of control," confessed a spokesman in Lanzhou, Gansu province in northern China .
Critics say the firefighters have only themselves to blame. "They're forever telling other people what to do, how many extinguishers to have and closing down businesses because they don't meet fire regulations. How about we close them down now?" said one local man.