SAN FRANCISCO – Chevron Corp. was bracing Friday for an onslaught of legal claims after one of its Northern California refineries caught fire and sent thousands of people to hospitals with complaints about respiratory problems and other ailments.

The San Ramon-based oil giant opened a claim center Friday in Richmond, and said it has received more than 2,000 calls to a claims hotline.

“We are going to pay all appropriate and reasonable expenses,” Chevron spokesman Sean Comery said. That includes “out-of-pocket” medical costs, he said.

Richmond lawyer Nick Haney, who had long lines form outside his office earlier in the week, said he expects to represent about 3,000 residents with legal claims. Haney says he hopes to negotiate a settlement with the company before filing lawsuits.