Flagpole problem solution #1:

I assumed a worse case scenario. (Call me a pessimist, if you will. I prefer the term "realist".) Assume a flagpole of length x just touches a wire 16 feet above the ground. The point on the ground directly under the point where the pole touches the wire is located 18 feet from the base of the flagpole. How long would the flagpole have to be in this hypothetical situation?

We need to determine if x is smaller or greater than 20 feet. Using the Pythagorean theorem, we find that x is approximately 24 feet. In other words, if the flagpole falls, it should miss the wire by about 4 feet.