Building a more fire resilient California

green forest with foggy sky


The California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR), the Cal Poly Digital Transformation Hub powered by AWS (DxHub), and organizations from across the state have designed and developed ‘Resilient Sierra,’ a new citizen-focused biomass removal and reuse service that reduces the threat of wildfires and supports a healthier forest while creating a sustainable new source for California wood products.


Fire moving through underbrush in a forest

Wildfire occurrence, intensity, and threat have increased dramatically over the last 30 years due to historic forest management practices, climate change, and the expansion of human presence in wildland areas. The prevention of natural burning cycles over the last 100 years has increased the amount of fire fuels (i.e. ‘woody biomass’), which in turn increase the intensity of new wildfires. This threatens human and animal life, property, the survivability of large mature trees, and, over time, biodiversity and forest resilience. To address this, the team honed in on the treatment of woody biomass on private lands and the subsequent conveyance of that harvested, reusable wood material to a marketplace for responsible downstream consumption by wood product makers. 

Innovation in Action

Prior to developing the solution, an inter-organizational team convened to clearly articulate the issue from the views of multiple stakeholders and disciplines. They elected to focus on Californian semi-rural and rural landowners.

Vegetation treatment and compliance with CalFire requirements around private properties are expensive and difficult to navigate for the average landowner. The logistics of developing a treatment plan, contracting and mobilizing certified Licensed Timber Operators (LTOs), and treating the property in a compliant manner have traditionally resided with the owner of the property. As a result, the team set out to create a new service that would coordinate the aforementioned services on behalf of the landowner, requiring only his or her registration within the application. When a community’s registration levels reach a satisfactory level, a local organization known as ‘Resilient Sierra’ administers the coordination, removal, and transportation of the woody biomass for all parties and aggregates the material in a traceable, digital marketplace for woody industry off-takers to purchase. Over the course of eleven, two-week design sprints, experts at the DxHub, technology developer Scale Capacity, Inc., Cal Poly Humboldt, and OPR, along with a variety of regulatory and community stakeholders, developed a solution that includes the following user benefits:

Private Landowner Licensed Timber Operator (LTO) Resilient Sierra Manager
  • Free image-based biomass estimates and property assessment of personalized fire risk
  • No-cost treatment plan and permit coordination
  • Assignment and coordination of a contractor (LTO) to treat the property
  • No-cost removal of treated vegetation from the property
  • Closeout services and formal documentation of compliance with fire safety regulations to reduce home insurance costs or enable insurability
  • Ability and platform to bid on and claim private properties that have been approved for biomass removal treatment
  • Access to property documentation (photos and plans) to ensure high-quality bids and efficient property treatments
  • A communications platform to enable streamlined coordination, scheduling, and project status awareness between the LTO and landowner
  • Image-based per property assessments of fire risk and biomass estimates to enable community-level treatment planning and outreach
  • Customer relationship management capabilities, including visibility into registered private landowners and direct communication abilities
  • A database of estimated amounts and locations of treated woody biomass that is available for marketplace reuse and conveyance

Technical Solution

The technical back-end powering the Resilient Sierra application uses a combination of AWS cloud services, satellite image-based model estimates of accumulated woody biomass (provided by Cal Poly Humboldt), and high-resolution imagery and machine learning-powered analytics to produce personalized fire risk assessments of individual properties (provided by Cape Analytics). 

The primary solution is comprised of a serverless web application hosted by AWS Amplify and primarily utilizes API Gateway and Lambda functionality. For long-term application data, the administered Amazon Aurora’s serverless database. The Resilient Sierra application requires user authentication and uses AWS Cognito to register new users and provide authorization groups for the various persona types required. To send and receive emails through the application, the team employed Amazon Simple Email Service and Amazon WorkMail. These services allow the application to send outbound emails within the application to new users as well as facilitate email verification for new users. Route53 provides domain registration and endpoint configuration. 

The use of serverless infrastructure will allow the application to scale as new users complete their onboarding journeys. The architecture is maintained and deployed leveraging AWS CodeCommit, CodeGuru and CodePipeline, enabling fast-paced agile development practices to ensure the application continues to meet user needs.

diagram showing the technical elements of the solution


The new ‘Resilient Sierra’ program will enter its pilot phase in the spring of 2023, and will feature a small batch of early adopters to gather feedback on application features and functionality, user experience, and operational requirements to enable statewide scaling to regions of focus. For further information or interest in being an early adopter contact

About the DxHub

The Cal Poly Digital Transformation Hub (DxHub) is a strategic relationship with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and is the world’s first cloud innovation center supported by AWS on a University campus. The primary goal of the DxHub is to provide real-world problem-solving experiences to students by immersing them in the application of proven innovation methods in combination with the latest technologies to solve important challenges in the public sector. The challenges being addressed cover a wide variety of topics including homelessness, evidence-based policing, digital literacy, virtual cybersecurity laboratories and many others. The DxHub leverages the deep subject matter expertise of government, education and non-profit organizations to clearly understand the customers affected by public sector challenges and develops solutions that meet the customer needs.