Family heartbreak as arsonist attacks business
CHEESE was on fire, a timber deck ablaze and the cafe walls burning when Jennepher Bucher woke to a neighbour's screams alerting her that her parents' business was alight.
The Maleny Cheese Factory general manager said she didn't believe the source of smoke, crackles and "raging" orange was her family business turning to ash until she stood helpless before the deliberately lit blaze.
Ms Bucher said up to $100,000 of cheese was destroyed in the main coolroom, which was produced in preparation for the upcoming school holidays.
"And the loss of sales in the next two to three weeks is horrendous," she said, adding she expected the cost to tip $1million.
"There was literally cheese on fire when I arrived, it's pretty heartbreaking."
An explosion first alerted Ms Bucher's neighbour to the fire, which CCTV indicates someone had lit in the early hours of yesterday morning.
Eight Queensland Fire and Emergency Service crews arrived about 4.15am to find the business's popular tourist deck and front well ablaze as a separate fire burnt in a nearby industrial wheelie bin.
Forensic fire and police investigators returned to the Clifford St address during the day.
Ms Bucher expects it will be about three weeks before they can return to business.
In the immediate aftermath, Ms Bucher said she had racked her brain as to why someone would target her family's business, which her parents, Markus and Sara, founded in 2004.
"It makes me very worried ... you try and think of if you have any enemies, and I can't think of anyone," she said.
"It's a scary thought ... it's just absolutely heartbreaking."
Ms Bucher said she had to tell 30 staff, 'I don't know when I will call you in', and those who understood the full extent of the situation shared her pain.
Though she is devastated, Ms Bucher was grateful her neighbour, who she had never met, reacted so quick and alerted authorities before the fire reached the more flammable parts of the factory.
"You can't control cool-room panels when they are on fire, they are the worst thing to catch fire, the whole factory would be gone, there's no way we would have anything," she said.
A pregnant Ms Bucher said she would be dealing with the situation while her parents were on holiday in Switzerland.
"They are debating whether they fly back early," Ms Bucher said.
"Honestly it's such a big job, I don't think it will make much difference for a few days. It's very distressing, it's their baby."
Police urge anyone with information or footage to come forward. You can report to Crime Stoppers anonymously online, or call 1300 333 000.