The damage remains days after the fire. Ashley Hiruko/staff photo

The damage remains days after the fire. Ashley Hiruko/staff photo

The cheese will return: Business owner vows to reopen following destructive blaze

River Valley Cheese displaced, for now.

Kristi Slotemaker wants people to know that despite an Issaquah fire last week that left her without business space, she will return.

It’ll take time, she said, to figure out the logistics behind continuing River Valley Cheese, a cheese cooking school she opened in 2016. But the plan — at least for now — is to teach classes to groups of 10 or more, in households throughout the area. Neighbors must supply the wine and space, she’ll supply the cheese. And the cost will be by donation.

“I need to get back out teaching cheesy people,” Slotemaker said. “It’s a long process of recovery, and I need to get through it being with cheesy people.”

Eastside Fire and Rescue were dispatched at 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 19 to the 23800 block of Southeast Tiger Mountain Road. After arriving on scene, the blaze was upgraded to a two-alarm fire and required resources from around the region, said fire official Steve Johnson. The fire cause remains unknown as of Feb. 20.

No hydrants in the area meant firefighters relied on several water tenders to transport water from water source to fire. Without hydrant use, the blaze was fought in a defensive manner, meaning no firefighters entered the structure and remained outdoors.

Two firefighters sustained minor back injuries and were taken to a local hospital where they were evaluated and released. And across the street, Mountainside School evacuated about 50 children to nearby Fire Station 76, where they were reunited with their parents.

Other businesses, aside from the cheese school, housed in the structures on Tiger Mountain Road include a media studio, and an artist who lost her collection of work. A family residing in the contiguous space is now without a home. Slotemaker describes the group as a family of artists.

“Everyone lost everything in that fire,” she said. “We probably won’t be able to be reunited, but it was a great family experience on site.”

On her voicemail, Slotemaker thanks others for the support she’s received since the fire destroyed the building, and she refers to the fire as a “little bump in the road.”

A GoFundMe page for the business outlines what she witnessed: “When Kristi arrived on the scene, smoke and ashes smoldered where buildings once stood. From the moment she saw the devastation, she had to distinguish the building from the business. While the building is a skeleton, the River Valley Cheese spirit remains very much alive.”

“I feel good, but this morning I got up and had to hold on to a wall for a while,” Slotemaker said. “I feel so overwhelmed not only with the disaster but also with support and love and kindness and thoughtfulness —It’s so amazing.”

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