Firefighters host pickleball tournament in honor of Kern County firefighter

Michael Muñoz and Andrew Gardner, firefighters from Fire Station 132, play an engaging match of picketball. Jose Herrera/The Signal

Firefighters need a break sometimes to recharge before going back out to fight fires the next day — but even when they are off-duty, they do what they can for their community.  

Los Angeles County Fire Department firefighters from stations 111, 107 and 132 in the Santa Clarita Valley hosted their inaugural pickleball tournament at The Paseo Club in Valencia on Monday. 

“County Fire Pickleball started just as a group of firefighters and for firefighters to get information about pickleball around the county,” said firefighter and lead organizer Chad Chebbi. “But we are not exclusive to firefighters at all.” 

Firefighter Chad Chebbie swings his racket during a game of pickleball at The Paseo Club. Cabbie along with other crew mates organized the County Fire Picketball group to connect both local firefighters and all others interested in pickleball. Jose Herrera/The Signal

Although the tournament was an opportunity for firefighters to have fun, the event had a somber note as organizers turned it into a fundraiser for Aiden Agnor, 18, a fellow firefighter from Kern County who died in late June.  

“The initial reason for the event was to get our members out, their families involved and get everybody to mingle and meet,” Chebbi said. “We are one big family, and we had a somber turn when we found out about Aiden’s passing; he was very close to our hearts.” 

Chebbi used to work for the Kern County Fire Department before moving to the SCV. He recalled Agnor’s uncle being one of the local captains in Kern County.  

“We decided at that point that we’re going to make it a fundraiser,” Chebbi said. “We have had our faith in humanity restored because we’ve had so many people donate, companies contact us to donate and everybody’s been super gracious.” 

According to Fire Capt. Shelia Kelliher, a public information officer for the Fire Department, the group met their goal of raising $3,000 for Agnor’s family.  

Firefighter Makenna Minniti and engineer Mike Berdrow talk while pickleball games play out in front of them during the County Fire Pickleball Tournament at The Paseo Club in Valencia on Monday afternoon. Jose Herrera/The Signal

Kelliher added the County Fire Pickleball is a wonderful group that is “so important in this day and age to build camaraderie and bring people together.” 

Chebbi said they had a great turnout with more than 20 teams and 40 players.  

Richard Nelson, paramedic firefighter for Station 111, said they created County Fire Pickleball because there’s a large interest.  

“It’s such a growing sport that pretty much every station has a court now,” Nelson said. “We’ve been playing for a little over a year now.” 

Nelson said his crew has played pickleball for more than a year and they all decided to put the tournament together, and also make it a fundraiser.  

“We all work together at Fire Station 111. So, we’re out here with Battalion 22 and Battalion 6, and all the guys came out while off-duty, and we’re to have a good time and raise money,” Nelson said.  

Chebbi said the group will organize more events in the future and he’ll send out a newsletter about once a month to make it easier for people to participate in the County Fire Pickleball group. 

“We are inclusive. Anybody that wants to join, like our local firefighters, people from around the state are more than welcome, as well as just public members,” Chebbi said. “We’ll have coaches on very soon. If you haven’t ever played, come out to one of our events and do some learning.” 

A L.A. County Fire Department helicopter flies overhead The Paseo Club in Valencia during the County Fire Picketball’s first annual tournament on Monday afternoon. Jose Herrera/The Signal
Tad Shimada and Chad Ernsdorf, firefighters at Fire Station 107, compete in the County Fire Pickleball tournament at The Paseo Club in Valencia on Monday afternoon. Organizers of the tournament brought local firefighters together for the love of pickleball, but it also served as a fundraiser event for Kern County firefighter Aiden Agnor, who died in a car accident in late June.

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