The Moscow catastrophe started on September 14 as many small fires quickly got out of control, forming a massive blaze across the many wooden structures. The fire, set under the command of Rostopchin, quickly spread into the Kremlin's arsenal, although the French Guardsmen put it out. The Great Fire ended five days later, on September 18, 1812.
The Great Fire of Moscow lasted for five days and was visible up to 215 km away. And although Moscow city had a fire brigade, Rostopchin had previously given orders to remove or destroy most of the equipment, making it difficult to control the blaze.
At the start of the fire, most of the existing residents had abandoned the city. And by the time Napoleon's troops advanced into Moscow, the fire was already out of control, as most of the structures in the city were wooden.
Although French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte resided safely in the Kremlin, he watched the fire in deep horror. He was mostly intimidated by the Russian resolution to burn down their beloved and most sacred city before surrendering it. A witness recounted watching him remain transfixed, watching the fire from the Kremlin. "What a terrible sight, so many palaces," he said as he looked on in disbelief.