A dozen firefighters were injured last night, five seriously - including the first woman in the department's history to join an elite rescue squad - when a pair of fire trucks collided in Manhattan, officials said.
Ladder 12 was shooting down Seventh Avenue at 6:30 p.m. when it smashed into the Squad 18 truck, which was headed east on West 10th Street in Greenwich Village.
Both units were rushing to a call that later proved to be a false alarm, sources said.
"The [Squad 18] truck that hit the pole caught on fire and they pulled out one firefighter who looked pretty banged up," said a witness who declined to give his name.
The companies were both responding to a call from an automatic alarm that went off at Grove Street and Waverly Place - about a block away - when they collided.
Officials said the accident was likely caused by the trucks driving in an unusual pattern because they weren't coming from their firehouses.
Sources said the drivers saw each other and tried to swerve out of the way, but they were too late.
The quarter panels of both trucks were severely damaged in the smash-up.
"When I looked outside all I saw was black smoke," said witness Levi Abugu, 36, who manages the Gourmet Garage grocery, near the site of the crash.
"When the truck hit the pole, the building shook. Glass broke off the shelves," he said.
Five of the firefighters were taken to St. Vincent's Hospital and seven to Bellevue.
Sources identified the most seriously injured as Lt. Adrienne Walsh of Squad 18.
Walsh was the first woman to join one of the FDNY's elite rescue squads and one of only 32 women in the 11,000 member FDNY as of 2005.
The extent or nature of the 11-year veteran's injuries was not immediately known, but one source said that she was the "most banged-up" of the smoke-eaters in the crash.
"She's doing fine, she looked all right to us," Walsh's father, Neil, told The Post after visiting his daughter at St. Vincent's.
Walsh, who served as a Coast Guard reservist, was at Ground Zero on 9/11 when the first World Trade Center tower collapsed.
Seven years after joining the department in 1997, Walsh joined Rescue 4 in Queens. The next year, she became the first woman to be promoted to lieutenant in a rescue squad.
No bystanders were hurt in the accident.
Additional reporting by Tim Perone & Peter Holley