Dozens of people were evacuated from their homes after a gas main fire in what police described as a "critical incident".
The incident happened at 1.40am in Coney Green Drive, a residential street in Longbridge, Birmingham.
Firefighters called to the scene found a man slumped unconscious in a gas main trench, and rescued him while the fire blazed nearby.
He was taken to hospital and held on suspicion of starting the fire, West Midlands Police said. No-one else was injured.
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"She tried to take hold of the knife to stop him. He told her not to shout out and scream and get on her knees and beg."