msnbc.com news services
updated 3/1/2011 4:45:20 PM ET 2011-03-01T21:45:20

A firefighter was injured Tuesday while battling fast-moving wildfires engulfing some 16,000 acres along Florida's central Atlantic coast.

Stiff winds were spreading the flames and smoke in a mostly rural stretch of Brevard County, located about 50 miles east of Orlando, and extending into Volusia County to the north. The blaze is 25 percent contained, authorities said.

The injured firefighter was among 120 state and local firefighters working to contain the blaze, using 4 aircraft and 10 heavy dozers among other equipment. He was flown by helicopter to a trauma hospital. The exact natures of his injuries was unclear but NBC's Kerry Sanders said the water from his hose hit a very hot patch and the steam blew back into his face. He was identified as Matt Wescott, 22, a volunteer with the Mims Volunteer Fire Department.

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Parts of Interstate 95 and U.S. 1 in North Brevard County were closed Monday night by the Florida Highway Patrol, but had reopened by Tuesday morning.

A state of emergency has been declared in the county, according to Brevard County spokeswoman Kimberly Prosser. The fire prompted the voluntary evacuation of 2,500 homes, destroyed two hunting camps and some mobile homes. It also forced the evacuation of about 20 residences at nearby campgrounds and trailer parks.

Rain fell in the area on Tuesday morning, giving some hope to firefighters, but winds, which could help fan the flames, were expected to pick up later in the day and could move the fire southward into more populated areas.

The fire remained about 25 miles north of Kennedy Space Center and across the Intracoastal Waterway from Cape Canaveral.

A smaller, 2,000-acre fire is burning in St. Johns County, about 30 miles south of Jacksonville. Tuesday afternoon it was 20 percent contained, according to the Florida Division of Forestry.

NBC News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Wildfire sweeps across central Florida

  1. Closed captioning of: Wildfire sweeps across central Florida

    >>> massive wildfires sweeping across central florida tonight. as you know, stiff winds are spreading flames and smoke in a mostly rural area of brevard county , about 50 miles east of orlando. 16,000 acres have already burned with the fire only 25% contained. some homes have been evacuated. schools closed due to smoke, even i-95 was closed for a mile. the worry tonight for the 120 firefighters working this fire, a wind shift that could send the fire in a completely different direction.

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