Midday Update: Burned bodies found in Calif. wildfires; shuttle docks with space staton; what we're working on

Burned bodies found as Calif. firefighters begin to control blaze

SAN DIEGO — The burned bodies of two people believed to have been killed in the wildfires scorching Southern California have been found, San Diego County authorities said Thursday.

Sheriff Bill Kolender said recovery crews found the bodies in a gutted home near Poway, north of San Diego. He said medical examiners were trying to establish their identities.

The fires also have directly claimed the life of 52-year-old Thomas Varshock of Tecate. The San Diego medical examiner's office listed five other deaths as connected to the blazes because all who died were evacuees.

Flames drew perilously close toward thousands of homes in Southern California’s firestorm, despite a break in the harsh winds and a massive aerial assault that raised evacuees’ hopes of going home for good.

The hot, dry Santa Ana winds that have whipped the blazes into a destructive, indiscriminate fury since the weekend were expected to all but disappear Thursday.

‘‘That will certainly aid in firefighting efforts,’’ National Weather Service meteorologist Jamie Meier said.

The recent record high temperatures began succumbing to cooling sea breezes, and two fires that burned 21 homes in northern Los Angeles County were fully contained.

Electricity was another concern. A wildfire cut a main power link with Arizona, while another blaze near Camp Pendleton was threatening the main north-south power corridor that connects San Diego with the rest of California. Additional power was being shipped from Mexico, said Sempra Utilities Chief Operating Officer Michael Niggli.

About 19,500 customers were without power Wednesday either because of downed lines or to ensure the safety of firefighters, officials said.

Even with the slackening winds, the county remains a tinderbox. Firefighters cut fire lines around the major blazes in San Diego County, but none of the four fires was more than 40 percent contained. More than 8,500 homes were still threatened.

President Bush, who has declared a major disaster in a seven-county region, was scheduled Thursday to take an aerial tour of the burn areas with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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Discovery docks with international space station

HOUSTON — Space shuttle Discovery docked with the international space station on Thursday, and its crew prepared to embark on the most challenging construction work ever attempted in a single mission.

With commander Pamela Melroy at the helm, Discovery snuggled up to the space station and latched on after performing a giant somersault to give engineers a close look at the ship’s belly and make sure it wasn’t damaged during liftoff.

The docking marked the historic meetup of the first two spacecraft simultaneously commanded by women. Space station commander Peggy Whitson is the first woman to be in charge of the orbiting lab.

NASA engineers didn’t spot anything significant in a preliminary look at images captured during Wednesday’s meticulous examination of Discovery’s nose and wings, said John Shannon, head of the mission management team.

But officials will need even more data and analyses before they can be sure the shuttle’s thermal shielding made it through the launch damage-free.

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What we're working on

- Daylight savings is a week later this year, so don't set your clocks back this weekend.

- Students at Dublin High School are interviewing veterans for a history class project.

- A forum will be held tonight at Byron Middle School for the city council and mayoral candidates in the upcoming Byron election.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.