She was hot for the FDNY.
Christine Cuocolo, 34, started out as a typical firefighter “buff,” one of legions of groupies to the hunky heroes.
But her desire to get close to the smoke eaters spiraled into a “Fatal Attraction”-like nightmare.
Cuocolo, a Midtown IRS employee, created several social-media identities, including FDNY Chicky, batcavesfiregirl 26 — a reference to the Engine Co. 26 nickname, Bat Cave — and midtownsixtyfive girl, for Engine Co. 65.
She joined a mushrooming number of online groups that honor the Bravest, such as Support FDNY, FDNY Midtown, and NYC Fire Wire. The groups, whose memberships have skyrocketed since 9/11, follow the Fire Department with the same intensity as young Justin Bieber fans.
Some buffs listen to scanners and chase sirens, taking spectacular action shots of blazes to display as trophies. “You guys are sooo awesome,” a female fan recently cooed on one page.
Cuocolo, who showed off a scanner, crafted YouTube videos and slide shows lovingly depicting her favorite engine companies.
She brought plates of cookies to firehouses to “show support because I respect them,” Cuocolo told The Post.
She also confessed to crushes on firefighters at Engine 65 on 43rd Street off Sixth Avenue — and a desire to date them.
“Yeah, I did at one time,” she said in a tiny, child-like voice. “It was a couple [firefighters]. I don’t remember who right now.”
But Cuocolo popped by so often — she also brought flowers and memorial plaques for the fallen — the crews grew uneasy. FDNY rules permit visitors inside firehouses only during “open houses”; they can’t just hang out.
When the firefighters finally told Cuocolo to stop the surprise visits and Facebook postings, her adoration twisted into obsession and fury, fellow buffs and firefighters said.
Cuocolo, the daughter of an ex-NYPD cop-turned-private investigator, dug up information on some firefighters and posted photos of their wives and children. At least one firefighter demanded she remove them.
Joni Heiden, a factory worker from Wisconsin who administers several fire-buff Facebook pages, e-mailed and spoke by phone with Cuocolo. Heiden saved disturbing messages texted from Cuocolo’s cellphone and written under her Facebook accounts.
One text message sent in December referred to firefighters by first names. “I hate Tommy Chris I want to hit them in the head with a . . . a halligan,” it said, citing the ax-like prying tool that rescuers use.
In March, another text mentioned three firefighters: “Im so sick of 65 house and tommy danny chris i want to shove a halligan up each of there asses.” Another message said, “F--k fdny engine 65 there a bunch of fags.”
The FDNY Chicky page on Jan. 2 displayed a photo of Engine 65 with the big letters “F U” taped or Photoshopped on the windshield.
Amid the escalating animosity came a scare. On April 23, a misspelled message appeared on Facebook under the name of an Indiana buff, Scott Main.
“i enjoy threating firefighter lifes the most import is i take out every fdny firefighter im going to start with 65 house,” it read. Another mentioned a “pipe bomb,” court records state.
The chilling words sparked a joint investigation by the NYPD and State Police, which traced the threats to the Rochester home of “Firefighter Battista,” a buff whom Cuocolo had befriended on Facebook.
Gary Battista, 36, who is not a firefighter, was busted last month on charges of making terroristic threats and computer trespass. Battista signed a statement admitting he posted the threats on Main’s Facebook page to get back at him for hurting Cuocolo, who claimed he beat her.
Main, 35, who met Cuocolo online, came to New York, and wooed her by claiming he was a firefighter, she said.
“He had the gear to prove it,” Cuocolo told The Post.
She gleefully modeled the bunker pants with suspenders for a set of photos that were posted online.
But she later says she learned Main had fished the gear from a Dumpster.
“He pretended to be a firefighter. He never was one,” she said.
Cuocolo, a divorced mother of three, left Main less than a month after they got together, she said. According to a police report, she accused him of hitting her in the face and chest at a Times Square McDonald’s on April 18. She called cops, who charged Main with assault and harassment. Main could not be reached for comment.
Cuocolo acknowledges that she then gave Main’s Facebook password to Battista, but she denies that she knew he’d post a threat. Both Battista, who spent a month in the upstate Monroe County jail, and Main have been released on their own recognizance pending hearings.
Firefighters pity Cuocolo. “I think she’s just a person who needs some help. She is not very mature and is easily manipulated,” one said.
Firefighters told The Post that Cuocolo was no longer welcome at Engine 65 because of her bizarre behavior.
“If she were to come by the firehouse again the guys have been instructed not to let her in and to call the cops,” a firefighter told The Post.
They take some blame for being kind to the tourists and “regulars” who flock to Manhattan firehouses. Their warmth can be misinterpreted.
“Some mistake our niceness for something more than it is,” one said. “Some people don’t realize it’s a job. They think it’s our job to entertain them. These people are interfering.”
Fanning the flames, he said, are TV shows like “Rescue Me” and movies like “Backdraft,” in which William Baldwin and Jennifer Jason Leigh tryst in the fire station.
“Some people think that’s what happens, but it does not,” the married dad said.
Occasionally, though, it does. The Bravest have been wary of “badge bunnies” and “badge bangers,” women who seek to hook up with heroes, since an August 2004 scandal in which a Staten Island woman, Jennifer Swanton, 35, had sex with three firefighters inside Engine 75/Ladder 33 in The Bronx. The FDNY later removed beds, video games and TVs from all firehouses.
Now, even home-baked gifts go in the trash, said another Midtown firefighter. Told that Cuocolo had made a crack about putting Ex-Lax in her dough, as one buff reported, the firefighter said:
“That’s why you never eat open cookies. You say no, and sometimes they go crazy. So you just say, ‘Thank you, Thank you.’ ”