SALEM TOWNSHIP (KDKA) — It was one month ago that a gas pipeline ruptured in Westmoreland County, sending a fireball into the air.

For the Salem Township community, that memory is still fresh. A benefit dinner was held Saturday evening for a man who was severely burned in the explosion.

Hundreds of people attended the event at the Slickville Volunteer Fire Department in Westmoreland County. The dinner raised money for 27-year-old James Baker.

Baker suffered burns over 75 percent of his body when a massive pipeline exploded in Salem Township on April 29. Baker was home at the time. He thought the explosion sounded like a tornado and ran out of the house when the blast occurred. He was rushed to UPMC Mercy Hospital, where he is currently being treated for his injuries and having countless surgeries.

“He’ll be in the ICU for a couple months,” James Baker’s brother Jeremiah Baker said. “They’ve been doing a lot of skin cadavers and they’re getting ready to do actual grafts pretty soon.”


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Salem Township Supervisor Kerry Jobe organized the spaghetti dinner benefit.

“I don’t know James. I never met him. I just know he walked out of hell and anybody that can do that deserves what we can give him,” Salem Township Supervisor Kerry Jobe said.

Family members said they were grateful for the event’s turnout, and it means so much to see people from all over the community and beyond come out and support him.

“We’re just very grateful. We just want to thank everybody for contributing, just for the support, the prayers, just keep them coming,” Baker’s mother, Helen Baker, said.

“He’s gonna never be the same again for the rest of his life,” Jeremiah said.

Jobe told KDKA’s Amy Wadas they served 500 dinners and $8,000 in proceeds were made.

Another benefit will be held on June 27 at the Fairways Lounge in North Braddock.