Amsterdam small-business owner recovering from burns after Tuesday fire

Lifelong profession as a jeweler imperiled
Ernesto Morales was badly burned in a house fire.
Ernesto Morales was badly burned in a house fire.

AMSTERDAM  — Ernesto Morales is slated for skin grafting surgery Friday as he recovers from injuries he suffered in a house fire on Tuesday.

The longtime Amsterdam small-business owner’s surgery will take place at Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse. He suffered severe burns to his arms after accidentally setting his 202 Church St. home on fire while attempting to thaw out frozen pipes, according to Amsterdam Fire Chief Michael Whitty.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for Morales by family friend Fabrizia Rodriguez. She said she has never attempted a GoFundMe effort before and set the initial goal at $10,000, which was surpassed on Thursday. Rodriguez encouraged anyone interested in helping to continue to donate to the page, which can be found at

“Even after he physically recovers, he lost everything in that fire, and that’s where he put all of his earnings — into that home,” she said. 

Laura Morales, 37, said her father, who is 62, suffered third-degree burns to his right arm and hand during the fire and has similar damage to the left arm and hand, though it was unknown how much damage or what the treatment will be for the left arm. 

“At this point, we don’t know yet,” she said. “It takes time to know how the skin grafting will take. We don’t know how much nerve damage was done.

“He doesn’t feel much, which kind of tells you how much of his nerves have been burned off.” 

Ernesto Morales is the owner and proprietor of Ernesto Morales Jewelry Repair, located in the Riverfront Center in Amsterdam. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1977 from Ecuador and is the father of five children. He is known as an active member of the Amsterdam community, particularly in the area of youth soccer and hospice care.

Laura said her father’s ability to continue with his profession will depend on how well he recovers from his injuries. 

“My Dad has always been self-employed,” she said. “He works with his hands. His business was something that was passed down that was learned from my grandfather, so it’s all he knows.” 

Rodriguez said Ernesto Morales is skilled with jewelry repair and design, having created a piece for her family that she cherishes. 

“I have a beautiful necklace that my husband gave me for one of my birthdays,” she said. “It’s a heart-shaped gold necklace that has both of my son’s faces engraved on it. I’m not sure how to describe the process, but it’s a picture of them that he put on there. He also designs engagement rings — stuff like that.” 

Laura said she expects her father will be unable to work for at least several months. 

Moises Morales, 12, is the youngest of Ernesto’s children and lived at 202 Church St. before the fire. Moises attends sixth-grade in the Greater Amsterdam School District. He said he’s living with Laura now, and he is grateful for the support of his family.

He said many of his clothes and personal possessions were destroyed in the fire.

The Church Street building also had an apartment tenant who was left homeless by the fire.  

“I was in school when I heard about it. I felt like just crying,” Moises said. 

Laura Morales, who works as a health benefits representative for Fidelis Care, said her brothers Ernesto, Manuel, Moises and her sister Yessenia are all grateful for the community support the family has received since the accident. She said her father’s spirit remains strong. 

“We feel very loved,” she said. “Anybody who knows my Dad knows that he’s a very positive and happy person, and he maintains like that. He knows that things happen for a reason, and he knows he has to maintain his spirit in order to heal.” 

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