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Today Marks 35th Years Since Harvey’s Lake Tahoe Bombing

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SOUTH LAKE TAHOE --

Thursday marks the 35th anniversary of the Harvey's Resort Casino bombing in South Lake Tahoe in 1980.

Before the explosion, many in South Lake Tahoe recall the evacuations and wanting to take a closer look.

"I remember everything was going on, they had everything blocked off where you couldn't come and see it," one man told FOX40.

Covering the story from as close as he could was FOX40's Lonnie Wong, who was reporting for KTXL when it was known as News Plus.

"There was some anticipation there because everybody knew that there would be an explosion or might be an explosion at some point," Wong recalls, being several blocks away from Harvey's that day.

At the time, FBI bomb technicians were attempting to disable the device with a smaller controlled blast, one that ultimately failed and detonated one thousand pounds of dynamite.

"They had let us know and said this is what we plan to do, and what might happen," Wong said

Other casinos even took bets on when the bomb would detonate.

"We were waiting so long that when the explosion did go off, our camera battery had died just at the wrong moment," said Wong.

According to the FBI, the bomb was built by John Birges, a Hungarian immigrant who lived near Fresno. With help from his sons and two other accomplices, he placed the device on the upper floor where the casino's administrative offices were, with a note to extort $3 million.

Birges later claimed he picked Harveys after he had lost $750,000 gambling there over the years.

The day after the blast, Wong remembers reporters were allowed back into the building.

"I don't know if a structural engineer had gone through it to make sure it was safe or not, but we went into the lobby of the hotel and there was wreckage from the ceiling ... And of course there was slot machines everywhere and sure enough there were gamblers there the very next day gambling away on the machines not caring that they were at an explosion scene," Wong said.

Birges was eventually arrested and convicted, dying in prison in 1996. The FBI says it still uses a replica of his device for training.