The two men assigned to the D.C. fire department's ambulance No. 14 went into a house on Fourth NW last night, brought out a woman and were preparing to place her in the vehicle when they were stopped short -- the ambulance was gone.

In a few minutes, the D.C. police were searching the streets of Washington for a stolen ambulance.

According to authorities, events went this way: An ambulance was dispatched to the 4000 block of Fourth Street NW in response to a call received at 11:08 p.m. about a sick woman.

Ambulance No. 14, based at 4802 N. Capital St., arrived at the row house shortly afterward. Nolan Williams, the driver, and Eugene Buch, the attendant, went into the house.

While they were inside, a woman approached a motorist near the house and asked for a ride to the Mount Rainier section of Prince George's County.

A moment after, the two ambulance men emerged, saw that their vehicle, a white Chevrolet, was missing, and went back inside to summon police and call for another ambualance.

After interviewing the motorist, police developed the theory that the woman who had accosted him had taken the ambulance and they broadcast a radio lookout for a stolen ambulance with a woman driver.

About 12:30 a.m. today, the ambulance was found by Riverdale police behind the 6200 block of Baltimore Avenue. The lights were flashing, the motor was running and the door on the driver's side was open. No one was in the vehicle, and police said their investigation is continuing.

Authorities said a second ambulance arrived at the Fourth Street address and the woman there continued her interrupted trip to a hospital. Her condition and reactions could not be learned immediately last night.