updated 10/24/2006 12:43:23 PM ET 2006-10-24T16:43:23

The city’s fire chief and three volunteer firefighters, including the chief’s grandson, were arrested on arson charges stemming from a string of fires over the past two years.

The four men, all members of Tiptonville Volunteer Fire Department, were arrested Monday and expected in court later Tuesday.

Police Chief Norman Rhodes said the investigation had been going on for about two years

“We’ve been pretty sure who it was for about the last year,” Rhodes said. He didn’t give a motive for the arsons beyond saying the suspects had formed a clique.

Fire Chief James Blackburn, who is also superintendent of the city water plant, was charged with 10 counts of arson. His grandson, Brandon Blackburn, faces three arson counts. Also arrested on arson charges were firefighters Floyd Joe Kilburn, facing four counts, and Chris Burrus, facing two counts.

The police chief had called on the state for help with the arson investigation, and Rhodes said James Blackburn, as fire chief, knew about the probe.

“He was actually giving me static about calling in bomb and arson investigators — said that was his job,” Rhodes said.

Police said the men are suspected of setting several fires since 2004. Among the buildings burned was an abandoned Victorian-style house.

“There have been quite a few people who have been upset because this has been going on. They haven’t been able to sleep at night,” state bomb and arson investigator Ron Powers said.

Tiptonville, 90 miles northeast of Memphis, has about 2,400 residents.

The state prosecutor didn’t immediately return calls Tuesday seeking more details on the charges.

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