All Cassandras believe California’s wildfires will get worse, much worse, before they get better. Right now, said Crystal Kolden, the state’s fuel management plan, such as it is, is for Cal Fire to try to do prescribed burns in shoulder season. But given that the fires are starting earlier in the year and lasting later (we are not even this year’s traditional fire season yet), the shoulder doesn’t really exist. “So where is the end?” she asks. “It’s not in sight, and we don’t know when it will be.” The week before this past round of fires saw the hottest temperatures ever recorded in California, the hottest temperature ever reliably recorded on earth: 130 degrees, more than half the boiling point of water, and just 10 degrees below what scientist consider to be the absolute upper limit of what the human body can endure for 10 minutes in humidity.

“Meanwhile, our firefighters are completely at the breaking point,” said Kolden, and there’s little they can do to stop a megafire once one starts. “And after a while you start to see breakdowns and interruptions in other critical pieces, like our food systems, our transportation systems.” It doesn’t need to be this way. We didn’t need to get here. We are not suffering from a lack of knowledge. “We can produce all the science in the world, and we largely understand why fires are the way they are,” said Eric Knapp, a U.S. Forest Service research ecologist based in Redding, California. “It’s just that other social political realities get in the way of doing a lot of what we need to do.”

The fire and climate science before us is not comforting. It would be great to call in a 747, dump 19,200 gallons of retardant on reality and make the terrifying facts fade away. But ignoring the tinderbox that is our state and our planet invites more madness, not just for the Cassandras but for us all.

As Ingalsbee said, “You won’t find any climate deniers on the fire line.”

(Originally appeared at ProPublica.)