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Members of the Attica Volunteer Fire Department march down Prospect Street in Attica on their way to the elementary school for the Milton Meisner memorial dedication on Tuesday evening.
x One hundred years ago, on a distant Feb. 16 evening, a blaze erupted at the Prospect School.
The tragedy that occurred during the blaze has become a part of village lore. And the firefighter who gave his life was memorialized during a Tuesday evening ceremony at the location.
It was freezing cold outside when the village’s firefighters responded. Fireman Milton Meisner, along with Arthur Underwood, had climbed a long extension ladder to battle the fire that had moved to the building’s attic along a ventilation shaft.
The ladder broke as the two young firefighters were working their way down to the ground. Underwood was halfway down when the ladder broke, and severely broke his left ankle and leg as a result of the fall. Meisner was near the top and fell about 25 feet. He succumbed to his injuries while being driven to a Batavia hospital.
But he was not forgotten, which is why the village’s firefighters conducted Tuesday’s short parade and ceremony at a new memorial erected earlier this month at the school.
“The notion of a 21-year-old man thinking of nothing other than containing the blaze, even in below-zero temperature, speaks of the courage Milton showed for his fellow community,” said Attica Mayor Nathan Montford.
Firefighters, village officials, residents and some family members attended. Family members helped unveil the memorial on the school grounds.
Interim Superintendent Tim Hayes of Attica Central School said the district held a ceremony on June 8 for its elementary students and staff.
“It was important for our youngest students, the children of the community, to know about Milton Meisner and the ultimate sacrifice he made while protecting our community,” he said. “Too often our students are exposed to bad people, and what they do in our society. It’s critical they know about the good people among us. Milton Meisner was definitely one of the good people. He is a hero of this community.”
In 1922, there were three fire companies in the Attica area: Wyoming Hose Co., Maplewood Hose Co., and Attica Rescue Engine Co. As a result of the Prospect fire, the fire companies got together and unified into the Attica Fire Department.
Meisner is the only firefighter who has died in the line of duty in the history of the Attica Fire Department since its earliest inception back to 1866.