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Watching from her ground-level porch, 37-year-old Michelle Smith said she heard odd sounds on Sunday coming from the warehouse.

“It was outside and it sounded like a fuse blew,” Ms. Smith said. “Today I kept hearing something that sounded like boom, boom, boom.”

Jeffrey Mitchelle, 49, said he also heard a succession of “pop, pop, pop” on Monday morning. The Alexandria resident who lives within walking distance of the warehouse said he was on his way to breakfast when he heard the noise. Then he noticed the flames.

“It was a lot of fire,” he said. “You couldn’t help but see it.”