Tenn. Firefighter Admits Setting Nine Arson Fires

A longtime member of the South Roane County Volunteer Fire Department has confessed to starting a fire in the bedroom of the duplex he rented and to eight other arsons since 2010, authorities said.

Keith L. Hephner Jr., who at one time was an assistant chief with the fire department, has been booted from the squad and faces potential criminal charges.

The Roane County Sheriff's Office will present the cases to the Roane County grand jury, which next meets June 18.

Hephner admitted torching the bedroom of his Laurel Bluff Road duplex apartment on April 20.

He also admitted setting two of his vehicles ablaze and starting grass fires near places where he had lived since 2010, said Sam Wolfe, operations chief of the Volunteer Fire Department.

All of the arsons occurred within the 100-square-mile area served by the Volunteer Fire Department, and Hephner either responded as a firefighter or was nearby each time, Wolfe said.

"It's incredulous to me that somebody lights their own place on fire," Wolfe said.

"It makes me heartsick, personally," he said, "but we're not going to let it undermine all the good things we do, and all the thousands of hours of volunteer work."

Evidence of arson was found at the duplex fire, and the Sheriff's Office and an insurance investigator interviewed Hephner and "found him to be responsible for the fire," according to a news release from the Sheriff's Office.

Wolfe said Hephner confessed the arsons to him a week after the duplex fire.

He said the department's executive board voted unanimously the next day - April 28 - to terminate Hephner. Wolfe said Hephner had been a member of the department "seven or eight years."